Interns and Other Playthings
July 24, 2001
Trent Lott of
Mississippi, the Republican Senate minority leader, said recently that
Congressman Gary Condit of California should resign his House seat simply for
having had an affair with an intern. Whether or not he also had a hand in Chandra
Levys disappearance, Condit had fatally disgraced himself.
The reaction was telling. By Lotts
criterion, Democrats retorted, half the members of Congress would have to quit.
Now they tell us! Three years ago the
Democrats were clucking that it was reprehensible that Bill Clinton
had played around with an intern. Of course they denied that it was an impeachable
offense, but they wanted the public to know they didnt take it lightly. They
even talked of censure for Clinton.
Now they come right out and treat sex with
interns as the norm, with no pretense of disapproval. Condit acts guilty and
appears impenitent, yet he is under no pressure from his fellow Democrats to
Are the Republicans
turning up the heat? No. They are afraid of appearing partisan by
insisting on applying elementary standards of honor to the Democrats. Or maybe
they are afraid that their own ranks would be thinned if the Democrats and their
media allies, including Larry Flynt, should start looking into Republican conduct.
During the 1998 impeachment proceedings,
after all, when adultery in office became an issue, there were more Republican
than Democratic casualties. When a Republican is caught in sexual license,
its a disgrace; it proves hes a hypocrite, and therefore fair game for
the press. When a Democrat is caught, its just his private
life or his lifestyle. The press reacts with
indulgence, because Democratic deviations call for tolerance.
Such are the rules today. If you uphold
traditional morality, you risk being charged with hypocrisy worst of sins!
if you, or anyone on your side, is found to have sinned. Whereas if you
undermine that morality, your own immoral behavior proves your consistency, even
your integrity. So its safer to attack than to defend morality.
But as John OSullivan has put it, the
defense of virtue cant be left to the virtuous. All of us owe it to God, and
to each other, to honor standards that we may not always observe with perfect
scruples. If you lie or steal, you are still bound to uphold honesty in principle.
Lying and stealing dont give you the right to defend such practices.
The same applies to sexual morality. People
dont really disagree about it as much as they pretend to. We all know that
certain practices are degrading. Nobody admires a prostitute. Even pagans have
honored chastity. Rape is not only a torture but a defilement. Even masturbators
are ashamed of themselves, which is why Hugh Hefner hit on the brilliant idea of
endowing pornography with glamour and portraying the Playboy
reader as an upscale swinger. (If you believe that, just look at the guys at the porn
The deeper hypocrisy lies in affecting not to
know right from wrong. Ordinarily decent people dont want their children
exposed to porn, much less to be sexually active or
promiscuous, as we used to say. The prevalence of the new morality
fostered by the media has made many parents give up in quiet despair, afraid to
assert their real beliefs even within their families. This seems to have been the
case in poor Chandra Levys family: her parents and other relatives were too
diffident to discourage her from having an affair with a married man.
We are constantly urged to get in touch
with our feelings. This usually means indulging our baser feelings. But we
really need to get in touch with our nobler feelings, which include the aspiration
to chastity, to sexual honor and integrity.
These are the feelings that are outraged when
Othello is convinced of Desdemonas infidelity, or when Don Pedro learns
that Don Giovanni has debauched his daughter. According to the new
morality, Othello and Don Pedro overreact irrationally; there is no such
thing as sexual debauchery. But the play and the opera are great
precisely because we recognize the validity of the passions that drive them.
The modern world is trying to shrug off things
that are built into our nature. This hypocrisy is far more destructive than the older