Infidelity: Public Morality
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 14, 1999, page B6
© Copyright 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
morality of Bob Barr, an ultra-conservative Republican from Georgia,
has come under withering attack.
other than Larry Flynt, porn peddler extraordinaire, has denounced
the thrice-married author of the Defense of Marriage Act for cheating
on his second wife. Mr. Flynt has also accused Mr. Barr, an abortion
foe, of paying for an abortion for his second wife. The revelations
are part of a campaign, paid for by the smutmeister himself, to
expose the hypocrisy of the Republicans leading the drive to impeach
President Bill Clinton.
preoccupation with straying members of Congress - not to mention
the obsession with every salacious detail of Monicagate - shows
just how low the level of political discourse has sunk. Mr. Barr's
response to the abortion charge was somewhat evasive, but it is,
after all, nobody's business but his own.
Mr. Barr doesn't deserve a pass on his keynote address to a Council
of Conservative Citizens' meeting in June. Both he and Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott have a lot of explaining to do about
their associations with this racist group. Their cavalier assertions
that they didn't know much about the group ring hollow. So why
aren't these revelations stirring up more indignation than a navy-blue
Gap dress? Isn't this more a violation of the public trust than
an extramarital affair?
moral compass seems stuck, pointing eternally in only one direction:
sex. Issues of private morality have crossed into the public,
political sphere. So, the most incendiary political issues - abortion
and gay rights - are intimately linked to sex. The Starr Report,
outlining the basis for impeachment, reads more like a trashy
novel than a legal brief.
reduction of morality to sexual morality has unfortunate political
consequences, beyond the obvious ones of scaring off potentially
good public servants and fueling a sexual McCarthyism.
Without a more refined sense of public morality, we lose proportion,
perspective and the tools to evaluate our public servants. Our
nation' s founding documents are rooted in certain values, like
equality and justice. Elected officials who flaunt these civic
virtues pose more of a danger than those with a checkered past.