Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

The Las Vegas Sun on Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) admittance of an extra-marital affair:
The Republican Party didn’t make a deal with the devil.

It made a deal with God, or at least people who said they were God’s representatives — a certain class of very political and ideological preachers.

The deal, engineered by Republican operatives such as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, went like this: Be against gays and abortion and for prayer in the schools, and in return, those preachers would proclaim the GOP the party of God and deliver millions of suburban and rural voters — enough to win elections for three decades.

But the deal carried a risk: Any behavior by Republican officeholders or public figures that seemed at odds with a certain kind of Old Testament morality — a tryst in an airport bathroom, a painkiller addiction, a sexual harassment lawsuit — and voters might feel betrayed and manipulated.

And the deal would collapse.

I don't think calls of hypocrisy in these situations are entirely constructive, as they only increase the polarized nature of our political and religious landscape. Under the public microscope, politicians of all stripes and parties have shown their flaws and personal failures. Democrats, to be sure, have had our share of the less than perfect role models (John Edwards, Bill Clinton).

As the quote highlights, the marriage relationship between the Religious Right and Republicans is a double-edge sword - especially as issues of sex, sexuality, and family values are central tenets to the party plank. When those trumpeting moral and political righteousness, however, fail to live up to those standards, people - not just the other party - are doubly angry. So while both sides have their share of disgraced politicians, the failure of conservative politicians - those who espouse and vocalize these central tenets - incites a special kind of indignation from the public.

And, as a result, the public lashes back. The Mark Foley scandal singlehandedly cost Republicans seats, if not the majority, in the House during the 2006 election cycle.

(h/t Taegan Goddard)


Hokie Guru said...

The real store here is that Ensign was with a woman... many times, these guys get out of the closet when they have an affair.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I think it's sad. The thing of it is, I would never call somebody a hypocrite for espousing an ideal and then failing to live up to it. That is all too human.

But I would call Ensign a hypocrite because he was the first to point a finger and condemn another for his human failings, and the last to be understanding.

A failure of compassion and emphathy is far worse to me than this.

matt said...

ok, let's just say the GOP did make a deal with God, according to this extremely clear thinking writer. here's the difference - when GOP officials are caught, they fade away into the sunset because the party abandons them (for the most part). and rightly they should. any person who would make the decision to cheat, lie, whatever, should be rightly examined for their ability to make decisions under pressure, wherever that pressure should come from.

when the democrats display immoral behavior, the behavior fades into the sunset, not the politician. i mean, for god's sake, barney frank's boyfriend ran a brothel out of his house and nobody gives a crap. if he had been a republican, he would have been gone (and ps - if BF had been voted out, our country would be much better off, but that's another thread) and his life ruined by the MSM.

bill clinton (who would be in jail if he had been the CEO of any company), ted kennedy, marion barry, ray "chocolate city" nagin, jesse jackson, and even the countless scumbag hollywood activists are still around and revered. not if they were in the GOP.

if there is anything i can't stand more, it's selective indignation.

matt said...

ps - am i the only one that thinks it's funny that moral righteousness is only attached to one party?

Drew said...


I don't want to belabor this point, but don't forget Newt Ginghrich, he hasn't really gone off into the sunset. But I didn't want to make this post a a finger pointing contest. Both sides are guilty of selective indignation was a point of mine, at least one I was trying to communicate.

I was just trying to portray that, in the public perception, there is a double dosage of blowback on a politician and his/her party when they talk about family values and then fall. I really, I promise you, didn't want to make this post about one side being better than the other, who owns morality, etc.

Just wanted to point out that, fairly or unfairly, in the public's mind if you espouse higher ethical ideals concerning sex and sexuality, when you fall from grace and betray these very ideals, the outcry is especially intense. The marriage of Republicans and the Religious Right is a sharp double-edge sword in this fashion.

Drew said...


While I understand and empathize with the indignation at Ensign's behavior, I wonder if words like hypocrisy are constructive in the long run. Sure the score cheap political points in the immediate, but don't you think that it perpetuates and exacerbates our polarized atmosphere? Us laughing (and I am not saying you are doing this) at the short-comings of the other side, of their human frailty, doesn't create a space where genuine dialogue seems possible.

I guess, I know that it might be naive and idealistic to believe that we can get to a place where people stop yelling at each other. But, I'm not willing to throw up my hands and give up. So that is why I am critical of our actions in these situations.

Sure, we should call our public servants to high ethical standards, but how do we constructively respond when the fail us? I don't really know the answer to that, but I feel calling people hypocrites isn't productive. Am I wrong here?

Brandon W. said...

No, I think you're my experience, very rarely does the use of the "hypocrisy" epithet defuse tension or illuminate a given situation.

I guess it's a question of what you want out of the conversation--if it's about expressing outrage, then I'd say words like "hypocrisy" fit the bill just fine.

If the goal is to further civil dialogue about what's best for the country in light of this policy or that, I don't see much use for it, regardless of whether or not it's an accurate characterization.

No doubt about it though, there's definitely something about the concept of "phony" or "fake" that triggers a visceral emotional response from all of us.

There can be a time and place for outrage, but speaking for myself, I can't think of any good decisions I've ever made while in that emotional place...

...I suspect we'll all have a better idea of what to do with this once a little time has passed and we've gained some perspective.

Matt F. said...

If you call someone out for an extra marital affair and say that Larry Craig should resign for an incident that didn't involve actual sex, and then you are caught in a situation where you cheat on your wife and don't resign, that is the actual definition of a hypocrite. I don't think that we should be forbidden from using the English language properly because we think it might make the discourse nicer. That being said, I don't think that having an affair makes you a less valuable public servant. The personal failings of individuals in their marrriage is a complex personal situation, and usually has no bearing on how they conduct themselves in their careers. This is why we would never expect a CEO to resign for infidelity. So I would argue that we should not let someones personal sexual indescrestions let us influence our evaluation of their public accomplishments. Unless that person argues that we should do exactly that. Then they are a hypocrite.

Katie said...

Matt F.:

Took the words right out of my mouth.

It seems ridiculous to me that we assume that because an individual is a crappy spouse or partner that they are also unqualified to serve in the position they were elected to. Certainly, part of the process of garnering votes is showing that your candidate is a person "of character", but at the end of the day it should be about whether they're making good on their promises and doing what is best for the people they represent. Period.

I also agree about the use of the word "hypocrite." It may not be nice to hear, but I feel that in this case, it is astoundingly appropriate. And I think it would be disingenuous to pretend that Ensign's actions smack of anything but hypocrisy.

Once again, that doesn't mean he should resign his seat -- but maybe he should see a marriage counselor.

matt said...

Katie- not that he is totally credible, but he did say that he and his wife sought counseling and have since "repaired" their marriage. and I agree with you and Matt F - it's ok to call someone to task for hypocrisy, just do it no matter what side of the aisle they're on or else risk being a hypocrite yourself (not you specifically).

However, in my experience, people who are having extra marital affairs take that baggage with them to work and it does affect them. Especially once they're caught...

Anonymous said...

Drew, I rarely agree with you on anything but this time i do. The Democrats think this is very funny but in the past when it was one of the many Democrats that have screwed up it was no big deal. Please don't think that i am defending Sen. John Ensign im not i think he should be held responsible to the highest possible level for his actions and give up his senate seat. That said the next time a Democrat screws up the same should go for them also. What is good for one party should be good for the other. We can not have it one way for one party and do something different for the other.Thats exactly why i like news that is fair, so Karen laugh it will be back on your side before long i promise.

Katie said...


Thanks for the clarification. I was unaware that Ensign and his wife had "reconciled." To be honest, I think in this case my cynicism is mostly founded in disbelief that she would stick with him after being publicly humiliated. Guess I'm not cut out to be a Senate wife... :-P

BlueSpirit said...

The attempt for one party to be the "Christian Party" is counter-productive and flies in the face of proper religion and proper politics. Devout followers of Christ know from scripture that God is a lover and supporter of all sides. Even when the divine edge appears to be assured to one party, scripture reminds us that edge is hair-thin (see Joshua 5:13-15).

As Representative Perriello's campaign slogan says. "It is not about right or left, it is about right or wrong." Both parties and members should hold to the highest moral standards - in office or out of office. We should expect such behavior from those who represent us in office - no matter what party - and should hold them as a matter of ethic, to live by these higher standards.

Another thing must be pointed out here, no devout Christian – and certainly no party wishing to be seen as the “Christian Party” – should ever forget that all people fall short of the goal of being perfect. When one falls, the proper response has been to repent, confess, and get on with living life as a repentant person. Perhaps the reason why some politicians fade into the sunset after falling is the fact they are not forgiven by their party, and/or cannot forgive themselves. Perhaps, as in the cases of Trent Lott, Bill Clinton, Newt Ginghrich, John Edwards, and others, the parties and the people decided that their confessions and their repentance was genuine enough to merit earthly grace.

If the recent polls reported in this blog are correct, people – especially those under 40 years of age – are being turned off to both religion and politics because the two have been so heavily blended in the last thirty years. If there be hypocrites, it is those who mix their religion so heavily with their politics that neither has much credibility in practice and drives those they would govern away from governance.

Senator Ensign fell, and he will, at least in the short term, bear the marks of his falling. The question is, who among us is really righteous enough to throw the first stone? (see John 8:1-11)

CWPNRG? said...

Here's my thought about the entire situation. I have a buddy who's getting married shortly and whose ambition is to be in public service. Great guy, I love him to death, love his fiancee to death, super couple, both leaders in the Christian community at the college they recently graduated from. He's one of the greatest thinkers I know, I go to him for all sorts of advice, he lets me sleep on his floor when I need to.

I say all that to make perfectly clear that he is eminently qualified for anything he decides to undertake, has high moral character, and I trust him more than anyone else. I would also be surprised if he did not have an affair at some point during his marriage. I love him, and I love his fiancee, and I hope I'm wrong. But I think it's likely to happen, because he has a weakness in that area of his life.

And when folks are smearing him of this affair 30, 35 years from now, I'll look at the situation and say, "That's not the real him. He loves his wife, and I don't know what possessed him to have this affair, and I'm going to hit him for it. But that's not the real him."

I imagine that somewhere, Senator Ensign's longtime friends are saying, "That's not the real him." Should he resign or stand down at the next election? That's for him to decide - the important thing is for him to be right by his wife. I think that it's important to have your house in order before you can rule over other houses. (Titus? 1 Timothy? one of those epistles...)

And I can say all this because I'm too young to have been tied down to a position by the Clinton impeachment.