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This week the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee unanimously opposed recommending to the House that it undertake a full inquiry into whether the conduct of the president constitutes impeachable offenses. For those old enough to remember an earlier kind of Democrat, it is increasingly clear that the Clinton scandal may result in the death of what was once a great political party. The Democrats are killing themselves for this man.
We have gone from a point where they wanted us to continue trusting Bill Clinton — before he actually admitted lying — to the point where he admits that he lied and they want us to ignore it and forgive it all. I know that some grass roots Democrats think that they are being loyal to their party by supporting this man. What they are actually doing is destroying their party, because many decent Americans who are still Democrats are drinking in this moral swill the way people drink in bad whiskey on Saturday night — America will wake up on Sunday with a hangover and they will vomit up the Democrat Party. They won’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. It will be synonymous with everything immoral, wicked, and depraved in this country by the time these folks are done.
It is worth recalling that during the Nixon scandals the Republicans went to Richard Nixon and asked him to resign. Decent Republicans of conscience decided that they could not continue to defend the president. The key question right now is why are there no decent Democrats. Why are the Democrats engaging in partisan acts of desperation, sacrificing the nation’s decency, its conscience, its laws, its respect for law — all for the sake of their partisan political interest? A party that throws away its moral integrity by wholeheartedly backing such a man as Bill Clinton will not survive.
And while some of my colleagues in the Republican Party might disagree, I do believe that the Democratic Party has some moral integrity to throw away. I disagree with many of the policies advocated by the Democrats, and believe that it is clear that the Party has adopted some positions — on abortion and the homosexual rights agenda, for example — which are deeply incompatible with moral decency, and which it will have to abandon if it is to remain a decent party.
But there have been many areas of policy where I think Democrats were motivated by clear and decent moral concerns. The Democratic Party in recent decades has stood — not always intelligently, but for the most part sincerely — for the position that we should be a country that cares about people, doesn’t turn our backs on the poor, doesn’t practice racism, and doesn’t abuse workers, just to name a few. These are moral motivations. The fact that the Democrats have pretty consistently chosen bad policy in response to those motivations, and has increasingly proven vulnerable to abuse by ideological extremists who prey on such moral motivations to promote the culture of death, shouldn’t make us entirely forget the decent heart of moral concern that still animates many Democrats, and has for many years.
Why a party that actually has in its background a decent moral heritage would want to take all its moral capital and throw it away in order to defend a lying, sleazy fornicator is beyond me. It is madness for the heirs of the Democratic tradition to allow this great institution to be sacrificed on the altar of a sick, juvenile, adolescent, reckless, immoral man who has systematically lied to everybody, including everybody in his party. It is a madness for which the Democrat Party will pay the price in the end, because I cannot believe that Americans are just going to sit back and see a party strip itself of all moral credibility and continue to accept it as a major force in American political life. It may take a little while, but the bad effects will emerge if they keep it up.
So where are the decent Democrats? Why hasn’t a delegation of Democrats gone to the president yet and asked him to resign? I think that one reason you don’t see Democrats standing up, going to the president, and telling him to resign is that the scorched earth policy of political warfare targeting anyone who opposes this president is actually being waged more against Democrats than Republicans. We don’t hear about it, because it’s going on in arm-twisting phone calls. But the people who are really being subjected to ruthless intimidation by this administration are Democrats in the Congress, who are being pressured behind the scenes to keep their mouths shut and to do nothing that would oppose this immoral president’s wickedness. The Democratic Party is being put in a straight jacket by the terror tactics of the Clinton administration.
That’s why you see so many Democrat leaders, even some whom I would have said are people of integrity and conscience, who are being kept quiet by this political terror campaign. I think that the real aim of the scorched earth policy is not to intimidate Republicans, but to intimidate Democrats into silence, even if it means sacrificing their party.
The combination of the lingering but dying moral heart of the Democratic Party and the cynical tactics of the Clinton administration suggests that the rest of us should strive to remind decent Democrats particularly that they will be ennobled, and may even save their party, if they will stand against Mr. Clinton. We need to remind them of the ways that their support for this man is harming the very people that decent Democrats care about. And if we remind them well, we may be able to help them find the courage to stare down the intimidation from the White House and do what is necessary.
We, and Republicans in the Congress, need to keep making the basic and powerful arguments that show why removing Bill Clinton is the most important thing that Democrats who care about the people of America can do. This is particularly clear if we ask about the effect on black Americans of Democrat support for Clinton. If we let Bill Clinton get away with his depraved behavior, and if the abusive attitude toward women, marital fidelity, and sexual decency that he represents is validated by this country, then we will complete the destruction of the black family and the black community. The greatest problem that we have in the black community today is the inability of some males to respect women and to treat marital vows and sexual relations with the kind of sacredness that they require. And Democrat support for a man who validates everything that’s wrong in these areas will do harm to the people who need help the most.
When I made this point the other day to the head of Black Entertainment Television, he said “Alan, that’s an irrelevant issue that has nothing to do with Bill Clinton’s presidency.” For the sake of the people who need their help, decent Democrats should put country ahead of party and repudiate this kind of refusal to acknowledge the obvious. Right now liberal black Americans, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, are sticking with Mr. Clinton at the expense of endorsing precisely the kind of behavior that has been destroying black families and black children for decades. What we should be telling black males is that you don’t get away with this kind of abusive attitude towards sex, even if you are the president of the United States, so that they will understand that we will hold them accountable as well. If we could get that one point across, we’d save more children than we would save in any other way. So where are the decent Democrats?
And while the damage is worst in the black community, we increasingly face the same situation everywhere in America. We are suffering terrible consequences in terms of illegitimacy, divorce and abandonment, increased crime rates, lower school performance, all of which have been repeatedly traced to the moral breakdown of family life.
Bill Clinton’s abuse of the American people, of their trust and confidence, represented by his systematic, lying manipulations and by his continued effort to assault America’s conscience for the sake of his lust and his power, is reprehensible. He took an oath of office faithfully to execute the laws, and then he committed perjury, which is a direct assault on the whole process of law. His conduct is an assault on the fundamental requirements of integrity in our public life that go all the way back to the Founders and everything they said was required in public office. There is nothing more “practical” for us to do for the moral health of this nation right now than to unite as a country to repudiate him, in order publicly to demonstrate to ourselves the kind of people we intend to be
The Democratic Party increasingly appears dominated by politicians who care only about their political futures, the outcome of elections, what’s going into their pocketbooks, how much power they have, their partisanship — everything but the best interest of this country and its people. Perhaps the Democratic Party is already dead, and nothing will save it. But in case there still remain, among its national leaders, men and women of conscience who truly have just forgotten how to care effectively for the people of this country — who simply aren’t seeing the damage they do when they support this man — the rest of us should work hard to make the arguments clear to them and to ourselves. If we think through why character matters, and how much depends upon its preservation in our public life, and if we make this argument well, perhaps we can help to re-awaken the heart of decency that was once the life of the Democratic Party. Let us make clear that we seek decent Democrats because we really wish to find them, so that together we can heal the country, for the good of this nation, and for the sake of its moral conscience and its children.