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Power and Betrayal:
The Clinton Legacy

A Lecture by Joe Sobran
Third Anniversary Celebration
November 15, 1997

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My earliest memories date back to what is now called the McCarthy Era, though I didn’t pay any attention to politics while it was going on. I don’t even remember noticing McCarthy’s death forty years ago, when I was eleven. I do remember my mother despising Richard Nixon for having said that Helen Gahagan Douglas was “soft on Communism.” My secret reaction was to wonder whether Mrs. Douglas was soft on Communism, but I didn’t dare ask.

In those days I had a single, simple idea of treason. It meant consciously betraying someone you owed loyalty to, especially your country. The spy, the turncoat, the foreign agent — Benedict Arnold was the model traitor, as I learned in school. He’d just plain lied about which side he was on. That was what I understood as the essence of treason.

Later I’d add the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss to the list, as well as anyone who belonged to the Communist Party. Nobody I knew doubted that Communism was just plain evil. If they thought otherwise, I never had an inkling of it. Communism and treason were synonyms.

I couldn’t imagine why anyone would commit treason or become a Communist. It didn’t even occur to me to ask. The world was full of odd things and people: the giraffe, the platypus, the skunk, and the traitor. They were all part of the variety of creation, and they didn’t seem to me to call for an explanation.

As I got older, I met more liberals, and by the Sixties, which began during my teens, liberalism was even fashionable. For a while I considered myself a liberal, though it went without saying that that didn’t imply any sympathy with Communism. Being liberal meant being anti-Communist. So I thought.

But by then more and more liberals, for some reason, spoke of anti-Communism with derision. I couldn’t understand this. It drove me nuts. They ridiculed anti-Communism without explaining why, and without being willing to commit themselves about Communism. They regarded McCarthyism as a terrible thing, but not Communism. It was worse than that. They implied that it was a mortal sin to call someone a Communist, but not such a serious sin to be a Communist. In fact their tone began to suggest that Communism was a sign of “idealism,” and that the real victims of McCarthyism weren’t the innocent liberals who were falsely accused of being Communists, but the actual Communists who had been identified as such.

To me that meant that McCarthy was essentially right. And probably Nixon too.

I never did meet many real Communists. As far as I know, none — I’m sure I’d have remembered! But I did meet countless liberals.

I don’t think I’d have really minded an out-and-out Communist who admitted being one. But the liberals who equivocated about it, jeering at anti-Communism while never declaring themselves, affecting a superior irony to the most basic moral challenge of modern politics — them I despised.

Actually, I did see a flesh-and-blood Communist once. One evening in the early Eighties, when I lived in New Jersey, I was dining with my three kids in a popular diner on Nassau Street across from Princeton University. A few tables away I noticed a familiar face, that of a man sitting with a couple of other men. Where had I seen him before?

Suddenly I remembered! It was Gus Hall, head of the American Communist Party! He was speaking at Princeton that night! There were posters all over town, and I’d nearly forgotten.

I had to tell my kids. I’d raised them, of course, to understand that Communism was evil. But there was one problem. I was always pulling their little legs. By then they were used to my tall tales. If I even cracked a smile while I told them we were sitting near the top Communist in the United States, they’d think it was another of my jokes! After all, if he was a real Communist, it wouldn’t be a laughing matter.

So it was absolutely imperative to tell them with a straight face. In a low voice I said: “Kids, don’t look now, but that man over there is the head of the Communist Party in this country.”

All three of them gave me a searching look. Was this a gag? The top Communist in the whole United States? The skepticism on their faces was too much for me. It destroyed my composure. I started giggling. “Oh, sure, Dad!” The harder I laughed, the surer they were that I was kidding again. I was the Dad Who Cried Wolf.

I finally stopped laughing and explained that the only reason I’d laughed was that I knew they wouldn’t believe me. I kept my voice down so as not to offend Mr. Hall, even if he was still defending Stalin’s good name after all those years. Finally they were willing to give me a chance to prove my case. So when we left the diner I showed them the posters. It was tough going, but I eventually succeeded in proving to their satisfaction that Gus Hall was a Communist. I began to understand what Joe McCarthy had gone through.

That night I even went to hear Hall speak. He drew an audience of about a hundred who fitted comfortably into a large classroom. The Princeton kids asked him tough questions and jeered at some of his answers, such as “A lot of the things Stalin did were necessary.” I had to admire the nerve it took to say that. But for the most part, he was rather disappointing. Most of his talk sounded less like Lenin than like an op-ed piece in the New York Times. At the end of the evening the students gave him a thundrous ovation.

Anyway, that was my closest encounter with an actual Communist.

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No doubt there are plenty of people who become traitors for the simplest of reasons: thirty pieces of silver will do. And there are others who find some foreign government to their liking and become its secret operatives. But these are unusual, extreme, and rather melodramatic cases.

In one sense, the liberals had a point about McCarthy: he trafficked in melodrama. He made Communism sound more lurid than it was. He reduced it to spies and intrigue. In a way he trivialized it, as some of the honest and truly anti-Communist liberals charged.

But McCarthy’s real sin was a sin of omission. He fingered a lot of Communist and pro-Communist small fry who had wormed into the government during the Roosevelt administration, but he never dared to finger the real villain: Franklin Roosevelt himself. That would have taken more guts than Joe McCarthy, or the entire U.S. Marine Corps, had.

I won’t bore you by repeating a point I’ve made so many times in the past, but Franklin Roosevelt was the best friend Stalin and the Soviet Union ever had. When I think of him, I almost pity Alger Hiss for taking the rap. I suspect that in his own mind Hiss wasn’t really a traitor. He was just doing what he thought the boss would have approved of, if he hadn’t been under political constraints. Roosevelt had to worry about what the reactionaries would say; Hiss could discreetly ignore all that. But Hiss, like Roosevelt, saw the Soviets as the allies of the progressive forces in this country, and for both of them that was what really counted.

And Roosevelt? Was he a conscious traitor? I don’t think so. I think he felt it was his sovereign prerogative to redefine the nature of American society. Centralizing power, soaking the rich, interpreting the Constitution to suit himself — he saw nothing wrong with any of this. He was like his sometime friend Joe Kennedy, in a way: Kennedy didn’t think he was betraying his wife and children with his constant adulteries. He even brought his mistress for Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

The most common kind of treason doesn’t even think of itself as treason. Roosevelt lied a lot, but he could have done most of what he did without actually lying, in the crude sense of stating facts he knew to be false. He didn’t actually have to break the law, either, though he did that too when he gave secret aid to the British and the Soviets. His actual lies and crimes were only conveniences. The real trouble went deeper.

As I say, the other kind of traitor is somewhat opaque: the man who consciously works for the defeat of the side he pretends to be on. It’s hard for most of us to understand that guy. But I think we can understand Roosevelt’s kind more easily. He’s a common modern type.

As a Catholic, I’ve known many Catholics, including priests, who behave like the political liberals I described earlier. They adopt an undefined tone of derision toward the dogmatic and the traditional, but you can never really pin them down. In time you realize that they don’t believe in anything. But they aren’t honest enough to leave the Church. You can respect the overt atheist who says he just doesn’t believe in this hocus-pocus. But the character who will neither affirm nor deny, yet insists on being regarded as a good Catholic and resents having his orthodoxy impeached even as he sneers at orthodoxy and works to destroy it — he’s a problem. He’s the problem.

That type of person is the problem for Catholics, for Protestants, for Jews. Maybe it’s only my limited experience, but I can’t imagine a Muslim or Eastern Orthodox version of the type; these faiths seem to be too rigid and vigorous to permit much in the way of devious ambiguity. But the Western religions are plagued by it. So is Western politics.

I don’t know whether it’s entirely fair to identify this style with liberalism. But people of this disposition usually find liberalism a convenient ideological cover for what they do. They have a deep aversion to simple definition. They are fond of rhetorical questions that begin: “Who is to say ...?” Who is to say what obscenity is? Who is to say when life begins? Who is to say what is “normal” in sexual behavior? (The word “normal” is always enclosed in quotation marks.)

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One of the many reasons that I adore Shakespeare is that he shows us a world of norms. Even his villains usually realize they are abnormal, and they know that abnormal means evil. They are fully conscious of their own envy: envy was still recognized as a sin by all sides during the Reformation. Envy meant malice, spite, the hatred of the good.

Shakespeare knows that man is seriously flawed and that envy is a grave temptation for all of us. In our time we profess to believe that people are basically good and we no longer recognize envy as a capital sin, though we are dimly aware of it as a reality. We speak obsessively of “hate,” but the hate we refer to is only a certain kind of social prejudice: hatred of racial minorities, and so forth. It seems to be a temptation chiefly for white Christian heterosexual males, and the remedy for it is to give the government more power to supervise everyone’s associations and even motives.

Our moral map is actually much cruder than Shakespeare’s. No subtlety escapes him. But our moral map leaves large areas of human motivation uncharted. We are constantly reminded of the hatred of whites for blacks, men for women, Christians for Jews, heterosexuals for homosexuals, majorities for minorities, natives for foreigners, believers for nonbelievers. We have a whole lexicon of cant words: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, nativism, ethnocentrism, fundamentalism, McCarthyism, xenophobia, even homophobia. These words are like an array of artillery, all aimed in the same general direction.

While these hostilities are emphasized, exaggerated, and even legislated against, we never hear about hostilities in the other direction. Aren’t they real too? Just as a matter of simple realism, you might expect a minority to feel a certain amount of spite toward a majority. After all, if a minority has been excluded, it’s bound to feel a resentment that the majority never has any reason to feel. If the majority regards itself as morally, intellectually, and esthetically superior, even if this attitude is unconscious, the minority is likely to feel a certain humiliation, and nothing breeds more hatred than humiliation. Who has to think about height all the time? The six-footer or the dwarf?

Envy, being the hatred for the superior, is the sin of those who feel inferior. It’s the sin of pride in defeat. And I don’t suggest that it’s somehow peculiar to social minorities. We all feel it in some situations. We all know humiliation. But our moral map, as I call it, doesn’t make room for this universal reality. And when a sin is unnamed, it goes unrecognized and uncontrolled.

A few years ago, when I noticed that words like “nativism” have no counterparts on the other side of the equation, I coined the word “alienism” to fill the gap. I wish I could think of a better one, but that one will still have to do. We have reached a point where alienation and envy have actually become normalized and idealized, especially when they occur among social minorities.

And notice what has happened to the word “minorities.” It used to refer to pretty clearly distinct social groups who were less numerous than the dominant group. Now it has become a moral category of sorts. Homosexuals, for example, are no longer perverts or deviants; they are a “minority” in a morally positive sense. Whether their conduct is normal is a forbidden question. (Who is to say what is “normal”?) The only question permitted in public life is whether they are “discriminated against,” and to ask this question is already to answer it. Of course they are! And the government should protect them!

Take Shakespeare again. His plays are full of alienated characters — and they are usually villains. Richard the hunchback, Shylock the Jew, Edmund the bastard, and Iago the officer who is passed over for promotion — they all have real grievances, and Shakespeare lets them speak their piece so eloquently that we sometimes sympathize with them. But their alienation, he leaves no doubt, is a threat to normal life, the good and healthy life as he conceives it, and as we all recognize it. Shakespeare doesn’t quibble at natural law with rhetorical questions. But his villains do.

But notice that even when his villains want power, they don’t really want to change society. They only want to rule. The recent production of Richard III that showed Richard as a fascist profoundly misunderstood the play, and in fact the world. Killing children doesn’t make you a fascist. (Nowadays it makes you a feminist.) Richard, Macbeth, and Claudius, the usurpers, have no program to “build a new society.” They represent a different kind of evil from the revolutionary — a much less harmful form of evil, in fact. They leave most of normal life untouched. They kill only those relatively few people above them, and hurt a few others incidentally. Their alienation is limited.

But modern politics is geared to the alienated. The modern state has to police more and more of our lives, because it has set itself against the normal. It defines normal acquisition as greed, normal group preferences as bigotry, and normal morality as hate. Consequently it has to watch over us at all times to make sure we aren’t too assertive about our normality, while it caters to our abnormalities.

Treason used to mean the subversion of the state. But the state itself now works the subversion of society. In other times, including Shakespeare’s, it has been understood that the state’s whole justification for existing is to support and protect normal life against the criminal, the savage, the perverse. Even tyrants never questioned this assumption.

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But in our time the state itself is the seat of treason. What else can you call a state that treats abortion as a right, and assaults even small schoolchildren with propaganda that teaches them that sodomy is good? The public school has become the equivalent of a Communist reeducation camp, where moral reality is inverted.

Franklin Roosevelt only catered to the economic parasite. To that extent he was an enemy of the normal. But he never took it into his head to promote abortion and sodomy. Stalin himself never made homosexuality part of the Five-Year Plan.

I don’t mean to suggest that the ultimate goal of the modern state is to turn us all into homosexuals. It’s not that purposeful. But it is that normless.

The chief everyday business of the modern state is still theft — taking from some for the benefit of others in the name of “social justice.” Bribery is always part of government, and in a democracy that includes bribing the voters. The free and spontaneous arrangements we want to make with our own wealth have to be condemned as unjust; President Clinton recently said it was “selfish” of Virginians to object to the state’s car tax. This is the fundamental principle of statism: it equates compassion and generosity with the amount of wealth claimed by the state, while equating selfishness and greed with the amount the state can’t get its claws into. At a minimum, the state panders to those who both resent other people’s money and want it for themselves.

Shallow philosophers pose the question “Liberty or Equality?” as if it were a conundrum. As a practical matter, those who want power always favor equality. And by equality they don’t mean equality in liberty, as Americans used to mean it; they mean equality at the expense of liberty. The state doesn’t recognize people as equal; it professes to make them equal. That means it is hostile to any free society in which liberty produces the differences it inevitably produces.

After the 1994 elections that threw the Democrats out of power in Congress, President Clinton acknowledged that the people were alienated from the government. But the truth is that the government was alienated from the people. How can it profess to “represent” them when it is taking their earnings, policing all their activities, and trying to change their whole way of life? If a private individual did such things to you, you wouldn’t say he “represented” you. You’d say he hated you.

More precisely, the government represents the alienated. Clinton himself is an odd case. He likes to present a moderate, even slightly conservative face to the electorate. He doesn’t appear to be an especially alienated man. He seems right in his element, and happy to be there. It’s his wife who seems to be the fanatic in the family.

And yet what do we make of his speaking last weekend to a gay and lesbian group, promising to see that their “rights” are secured? Was he just pandering again?

Maybe. I have no doubt he would turn against his gay supporters if he found it politically expedient. But that’s what makes him interesting. Clinton has probably never committed treason in any legal sense. And yet absolutely nobody trusts him or takes his word for anything. He is the most notoriously slippery man ever to enter the White House, including any burglars who may have broken in. He has betrayed his wife and his old friends. In fact, betrayal has gotten him where he is today, and everyone knows it. His own party regards him as a treacherous man.

What a comment on democracy! I thought the original idea was that the people, allowed to choose their own leaders, would tend to elect the most honored and trusted men to the highest offices. We even saw this pathetic impulse, briefly, in the popular enthusiasm for Ross Perot and Colin Powell. Whether they deserved it is another question; but there’s no doubt that millions of people were desperately eager to believe that a good man could be elected president. Americans really want to believe in their rulers.

But what kind of men do we keep getting? Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and now Clinton. This is a problem that won’t be corrected by statutory limits on campaign spending. There’s something about our system that causes such men to rise to the top. We still have Jeffersons among us — men of quality and principle, even if they have their flaws — but they don’t even go into politics now. What would they do there? What could they hope to achieve?

Betrayal isn’t a rare phenomenon that occurs only at the margin of society. Often it happens right at the top. In fact this is where we should be most on our guard against it. The writings of the Founders, and their equally interesting opponents, are full of warnings about the dangers of power and tyranny. In plain terms, our rulers are our natural enemies. How many times do they have to prove it?

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One of the most striking facts of the Clinton era is that the media have changed their posture toward government. During Republican administrations they prided themselves on being “adversarial” toward government, or at least toward the presidency. They were actually much less adversarial toward Congress, which was more liberal than the presidency in those days.

Now things are different. The media have become much less critical of the presidency and much more critical of Congress. The reason is obvious: they see the presidency as liberalism’s last stronghold, while Congress has become relatively conservative.

Even more remarkably, the media have forsaken their posture of alienation and become patriotic. They accuse conservatives of being unpatriotic — the word they use is “anti-government.” This is a little strange, since they used to describe the same conservatives as “superpatriotic.”

The truth is that most conservatives used to support the government to a fault. They believe in certain functions of government, and they don’t want it to exceed them. But now, of course, government not only usurps powers that don’t belong to it, it fails in the functions most conservatives regard as legitimate. If they are alienated from the government, it’s because the government has become the aggressive organ of the ideology I’ve called alienism.

Communism and all forms of utopian socialism have now failed economically. But this doesn’t mean that the Left, including liberals, has accepted defeat. Far from it. In fact a genuine revolution is still under way.

The real revolution of our time isn’t a socialist revolution. It’s the sexual revolution. And Bill Clinton, for all his zigzagging on other issues, is a genuine sexual revolutionary.

He has consistently supported abortion, right up to the moment of birth. Since the media regard “partial-birth abortion” as a loaded term, let’s call it birth-canal brain extraction. He is willing to fight for it. He has also supported the feminist agenda all the way. He had no objection to his former surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders’s, call for teaching masturbation in school. He has been the first president to militate for gay rights. And in Catholic South America, his wife campaigned for contraception and abortion.

There has been a lot of talk about Clinton’s “legacy,” but I think everyone has missed his real legacy. He will be remembered as the Sex President. He is both advocate and exemplar of the sexual revolution that got into high gear during his formative years, the Sixties. He has lived it. I don’t think it’s wild speculation to surmise that he promotes it even now in large part as a way of justifying his own notoriously lecherous life.

Unlike John Kennedy, Clinton hasn’t had to wait for posthumous revelations about his sex life. They have been front-page news since his candidacy in 1992. He appeared on 60 Minutes with his wife to answer rumors about his adulteries. The American Spectator created a sensation with David Brock’s report that he used state troopers to procure women. This gave rise to the sensational Paula Jones lawsuit. His former mistresses are now giving testimony about him. The press has even reported the alleged deformity of his private parts.

One unintended consequence of the sexual revolution is that Bill Clinton has lost — forfeited, really — the privacy and official dignity that all previous presidents have taken for granted. Nothing about him has been left to the imagination. The old taboos have fallen indeed! The old prudery, hangups, and Victorian inhibitions are gone! The First Amendment has triumphed — and it turns out to have some rather unexpected applications!

To say that the media favor Clinton i s only part of the story. When we say that, we mean the Ted Koppel–Tim Russert–David Brinkley issue-oriented media. We mustn’t forget the pop culture sector of the media that isn’t quite as interested in Bosnia, the Middle East peace process, and interest rates as in celebrity sex.

The panelists on Washington Week in Review may nod in solemn approval of the Clinton administration’s policies. But in pop culture, Clinton has become nothing more than a hilarious butt, the horny hick who has somehow gotten into the the Oval Office. The presidency has become the Lincoln Bedroom farce.

Every night Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien get their biggest laughs by joking about Clinton’s sex life. If a sleazy night-club comic had ever joked about Eisenhower’s sex life, he’d have been arrested. Lenny Bruce never dared make the kind of jokes that Saturday Night Live makes about Clinton. Welcome to the sexual revolution, Bill! Did we forget to mention that it includes dirty jokes about presidents who get caught playing around?

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Last year, at a National Press Club dinner, Bill and Hillary had to sit in silence while the New York radio shock-jock Don Imus made a string of merciless jokes about Clinton’s adulteries. It was all the worse because it wasn’t funny. The audience’s embarrassment was palpable. Henry VIII, no model husband himself, never had to go through that! But for all the subsequent controversy, the occasion was a net plus for Imus’s career. He’d calculated correctly that he could get away with it, garnering a lot of publicity.

As far as I know, nobody has made the most obvious comment on all this: Clinton is, by far, beyond any comparison, the most humiliated public figure in American history. Clarence Thomas must sigh with relief that he’s not Bill Clinton.

At a press conference, Carol Channing was once asked whether she remembered her most embarrassing moment. She answered: “Yes ... Next question?”

People don’t forget humiliations. They may not talk about them, but they remember them. Given the power of pop culture nowadays, Clinton must realize — how can he help but realize? — that it’s not his policy “achievements” that are defining his presidency, but his scandals, and especially his sexual scandals. People who couldn’t find Bosnia with both hands know who Paula Jones is. The phrases “Arkansas state troopers” and “distinguishing characteristics” are to him what “expletive deleted” was to Nixon, only more so. Much more so.

He sought the presidency from boyhood, chasing women on the side, but he never bargained on this. He assumed that being president meant being respected by everyone. Isn’t that pretty much the whole point? The pomp and dignity of the nation’s highest office! Hail to the Chief! The successor to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln! He wasn’t just going to be president — he was going to be a great president. Was there room for another face on Mount Rushmore?

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. We already forget just how drastically Bill Clinton has changed the image of the presidency in just five years. Oh, how he has changed it — from Pennsylvania Avenue to Tobacco Road.

“Image” is a word from the Kennedy era. It suggests an aura of glamour that is notably lacking in the Clinton era. Even the dirt about Jack Kennedy links him to glamorous women, including Marilyn Monroe. Clinton is linked to the likes of Gennifer Flowers, and to a failed pass at Paula Jones which, by her account, says little for his savoir-faire.

At least Nixon could say, “I am not a crook” and complain that the press was “wallowing in Watergate.” Poor Clinton can’t even protest the treatment he’s getting. He can’t say, “I am not an adulterer.” He can’t afford to show that being the Dirty-Joke-in-Chief is bothering him. He just has to pretend he doesn’t notice. He notices!

And he has brought it on himself. He can’t turn back. There is no way out. I doubt that impeachment could rival the scalding humiliation he endures every day. It’s almost unimaginable.

When Paula Jones filed suit, he couldn’t admit he remembered her. He remembered! He hired the toughest lawyer in Washington and did everything he could to smear her. This isn’t the way a president of the United States would respond to a lie by a little nobody. His attempts to settle out of court with a large cash payment and a statement attesting her good character, with typical Clintonian equivocation, don’t exactly help refute her story.

Clinton has had his defenders in the press, but there is one defense none of them has dared to attempt: “Oh, he’s not the type of man who would do a thing like that!” He’s exactly the type. If a woman had accused Jimmy Carter of such a thing, nobody would have paid any attention. (If Carter had admitted doing it, we’d have had trouble believing him.)

So what does Clinton do? Does he discreetly steer away from sexual issues? No! He addresses a gay rights banquet and pledges his full support! He draws analogies between the gay rights movement and the abolitionist movement, the feminist movement, the civil rights movement. He talks about sodomy in the accents of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

Why? Of course homosexuals are big donors to the Democratic Party now, but Clinton hardly needs the money. I think he has another motive. I think he feels he has to see the sexual revolution through to the bitter end. And I think he feels a deep empathy for his fellow deviants, even if his tastes differ somewhat from theirs. When he’s among gays and lesbians, he’s among people who don’t laugh at him or look down on him. To them he’s not just a risible, white-trash parody of Jack Kennedy’s secret life, the Arkansas cousin of Larry Flynt and Jimmy Swaggart. He’s a moral leader! They admire him without irony! They make him feel the way he always thought a president would always feel!

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Moral squalor, like misery, loves company. If Clinton can help to normalize even sexual perversion, if he can drag the whole country down to his own level, maybe, he reasons, his own conduct won’t look so bad in retrospect. Like Fidel Castro, he may feel that history will absolve him. He envisions a future America, fully “liberated” about sex, in which his ordeal will be recalled with indulgence. He will be honored as a hero and martyr of the sexual revolution — the president who made it official that sexual freedom is a human right!

Is this Clinton’s hidden agenda? I think so. Under the lofty rhetoric of “rights” we often find less edifying concerns.

Consider another pillar of the sexual revolution: Alfred Kinsey, author of the famed Kinsey Report. Kinsey taught educated Americans that all sorts of sexual practices — of which homosexuality was only one — were actually far more widespread than anyone had suspected. He said this in dry prose, backed up by a mountain of impressive statistics, complete with decimal points. In matters of sex, Kinsey was the very voice of disinterested science. And the result of his “findings” was to change American attitudes toward sexual morality, even though there is no logical connection between how people behave and how they ought to behave. His work provided the intellectual underpinning of the sexual revolution.

But recent studies of Kinsey himself, including a huge new biography, tell a different story. Kinsey was an utter fraud — but one of the most successful in the history of science. His methods were not only shoddy but profoundly dishonest. His samplings were deliberately skewed. His statistics were fake. His “findings” have been refuted by subsequent studies by more honest inquirers — though his “findings” are still cited as gospel, especially his “finding” that about 10 per cent of the population is homosexual. His use of children in his studies should have landed him in prison, assuming he was telling the truth about it (a large assumption). But it was excused as “science,” and no law-enforcement official ever moved to prosecute him. And his work was financed and protected by the Rockefeller Foundation.

But he had his reasons. Kinsey himself was a promiscuous bisexual and masochist. Privately he both practiced and fostered perversion. He encouraged his wife — the mother of his four children — to have sexual intercourse with other men, which she often did. He held that pedophilia was harmless and that pedophiles were unjustly persecuted by law. A new biography describes his personal conduct in graphic detail. Suffice it to say that he makes Bill Clinton seem wholesome by comparison.

Kinsey’s agenda was to bring the whole country down to his own level, and in fact nobody did more to advance the sexual revolution. Raised in a strict Protestant home, he betrayed his heritage — in the name of neutral-sounding “science.” What an act! He had the remarkable faculty of writing about sex as if he took a purely clinical interest in it, like a Martian observing the curious biology of Earthlings.

A horrifying man. Yet a New York Times reviewer of his biography, without disputing the facts, considers Kinsey’s lies and sins redeemed by the results. After all, Kinsey helped give us sexual freedom! And the curious thing is that his behavior horrifies us less than it might because of the power of his own influence. Thanks to his work, his perversion isn’t quite as shocking as it once would have been. If he had done a similar study of the prevalence of lying, maybe his mendacity wouldn’t be so shocking either.

Bill Clinton may think he too will finally be redeemed by the results. It would be one thing if he were an honest advocate of sexual license. But he matches Kinsey in hypocrisy. He’s the sort of man who can sing hymns in church with a tear trickling down his cheek (at least if a camera is aimed at him) and no president has quoted the Bible so often. He still wants Christians to think of him as their fellow Christian. Even Clinton can quote Scripture for his purpose.

In a sense, Kinsey is partly responsible for Clinton’s election. This is now the kind of country in which, verily, any boy can grow up to be president, no matter what he does along the way. As the columnist Paul Greenberg observed the other day, Clinton falls somewhere between the con men of Mark Twain and the degenerates of William Faulkner.

I’m beginning to think democracy is the cruelest form of government, because it gives people exactly the kind of leaders they deserve. We finally have one who is so transparent that we can hardly complain we’ve been betrayed.

To read the Epilogue Joe wrote for this piece after the Lewinsky scandal broke, click here.

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*This lecture was originally titled “Two Types of Treason.”
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