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Clinton Has Corrupted Our Civic Culture
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Clinton Has Corrupted Our Civic Culture

Guest Commentary by Frank J. Beckwith>


Clinton Has Corrupted Our Civic Culture

    President Clinton will neither resign nor be impeached if we as a people permit certain notions--that he and his apologists have made politically fashionable--to corrupt what little moral capital remains from the days when this nation accepted Aristotle's credo that "statecraft is soulcraft." The man who first lied to us about dodging the military draft, is asking us to follow in his footsteps. He is hoping that we, the people to whom he has been entrusted, dodge our civic responsiblity when circumstances resulting from his own reckless indiscretions have drafted us into a battle over whether he ought to be bound by his promise to uphold the delicate principles of our Constitutional regime and faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

    The president is counting on you to be like him, to ignore your moral obligation and put personal gratification above civic duty. He is hoping that you have learned from his treatment of Monica and others. As long as you think of him as a mere instrument of your economic prosperity and personal happiness, and not as a moral examplar for the nation, and as long as you are willing to keep him in power, he does not care if you don't respect him in the morning.

    Just as he knew that a deceptive allusion to future wedded bliss with Monica would get her off his back and back on her knees, he is confident that you will impart cheap grace in exchange for his more recent "religious" version of an "apology" (which he called "repentance") that at last count has had nine different versions, two of which included vows to continue his legal fight, a posture inconsistent with a truly contrite spirit. The president, treating us like a love-sick intern, offered us a series of words that touched certain emotions yet said nothing. Read carefully his "repentance" at the prayer breakfast. He asks forgiveness, claims repentance, and calls himself a sinner, but does not bother to tell us for what sins he is repenting for which he is asking forgiveness. For to provide his words with content would have put him in legal peril; he would have risked suffering the consequences of his actions, perhaps resulting in resignation or impeachment. That is, his "repentance" speech was crafted so that he would not undergo the just punishment that accompanies admissions of perjury and obstruction of justice. It seems that for the president "repentance", "contrition", and "forgiveness" are useful words to ease the possible outrage of a scorned nation; it's his way of keeping us, like Monica, pacified by saying something that makes us think he truly loves us.
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    In a recent editorial in USA Today (Sept. 14), former Senator George Mitchell argued that Clinton should not resign because he has done wonderful things for the country and the world. Although it is not clear that such an assessment of the president's policies is accurate, Mitchell's comments demonstrate with clarity why the president must be removed: Clinton's spirit of governing has so corrupted the civic culture that even a man of Mitchell's stature is not ashamed to suggest that an unprincipled utilitarian calculus, rather than the high ideals of a civilized people, ought to be the standard by which we measure presidents. A president who treats young women as instruments of masturbation and the Oval Office as a personal glory hole; who lies for seven months to the American people and conscripts under false pretenses his friends and colleagues to publicly join him in his conspiracy to deceive, even subjecting some of them to financial ruin; and who thinks that the meanings of words, the precious currency of civil discourse, are exclusively determined on how well they are able to assist him in circumventing his responsibility to fulfill his oath of office without getting caught; should be impeached if he will not resign, even if there is economic prosperity and relative peace under his watch. If we as a people think otherwise, then that is further evidence that the president must resign or be impeached, for he has corrupted our moral intuitions, leading us to believe like him that feeling good is the same as being good. To think that way is to ignore what we intuitively grasp in our more reflective moments: prosperity and peace are valuable only insofar as they make it possible for a people and its leader to exercise virtue for the sake of the good life. To paraphrase Scripture: what would it profit a nation to gain peace and prosperity and lose its own soul.

© Copyright 1998: Frank Beckwith. Please do not forward without my permission.

Francis J. Beckwith, Ph.D., is associate professor of philosophy, culture, and law, Trinity International University, California campus, as well as senior research fellow, Nevada Policy Research Institute. He is the author of several books, including one to be released later this month, (with Gregory Koukl) Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Baker Books), a critique of moral relativism and its influence on our social and political life. email: beckwith@tiu.edu. Francis Beckwith's web site, A Contribution To Apologetics, contains information about his books as well as a collection of his articles