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Last week, the high priest and court jester of liberalism raised their moral voices, in the process demonstrating once again that there’s no longer any shame in our public life.

Prior to China’s decision to free the crew of our spy plane, the Rev. Jesse Jackson — shakedown artist who fathered a child out-of-wedlock — offered to negotiate with Beijing.

Touting his past success in springing Americans from Third World dungeons, the minister observed: “In each instance, we had to make a moral appeal. … Somehow religious people can be a bridge.”

That’s right, Elmer Gantry’s understudy actually used the m-word, generally defined as “virtuous” or “capable of making the distinction between right and wrong in conduct.”

What Jackson should have said was: Just as it takes a thief to catch a thief, who better to deal with extortionists than another con man?

Cut to New York City, where Woody Allen was kvetching about Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s oversight commission for publicly funded art. It’s “so silly that it’s laughable. It’s so beneath him (Giuliani) as an intellectual and first-class kind of politician and thinker,” Allen whined.

The city’s elite is fuming about Giuliani’s efforts to exert a degree of control over municipal funding of institutions like the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 1999, the museum showed the painting “The Holy Virgin Mary,” adorned with pictures of female genitalia and elephant dung. This offense was recently compounded by another dubious display, “Yo Mama’s Last Supper.”

One can see how Allen, who once took nude pictures of his then-lover Soon-Yi Previn in erotic poses, would leap to the defense of questionable art. (Well, at least he didn’t ask the taxpayers to buy his film.)

Still, you’d think the director would be reluctant to inject himself into a controversy with an ethical dimension — i.e., is it right to force taxpayers to subsidize pornographic/sacrilegious displays?

Allen’s venture into a new art form, which caused a sensation in 1992, involved a woman barely out of her teens, the adopted daughter of ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow. Woody, who knew Soon-Yi (now his wife) since she was 8 years old, was a surrogate father in all but name. That didn’t stop him from seducing her.

In her autobiography, Farrow says that when she found out about the seduction, she screamed at Allen: “You’re meant to do the right thing. You’re not supposed to —- the kids.” Most of us could have figured that one out.

By comparison, Jackson is merely a run-of-the-mill fornicator. “Many consider the Baptist minister a voice of moral authority for young African-Americans,” USA Today commented when the story broke about his love child.

Jackson’s sins aren’t confined to the flesh. Investigative reports in The Chicago Sun-Times uncovered a web of political pressure and financial dealings amounting to extortion.

For decades, Jackson’s modus operandi consisted of launching campaigns against corporations, which then were encouraged to buy him off with “contributions” to his organizations or by sending business to one of his associates.

Jackson and his wife are part owners of an enterprise thus favored. Due to one of these payoffs, the value of their interest went from $10,000 to $1.2 million. And this man wanted to “make a moral appeal” to the Chinese communists.

Allen and Jackson are products of their age. We have even lost the ability to discuss moral questions seriously — as evidenced by the mantra that there’s no connection between private conduct and the capacity for leadership.

We live in a land where an actor who’s repeatedly arrested for hard-core drug use is celebrated by his colleagues, a leader who admitted to adultery and perjury is lauded by his vice president as “one of our greatest presidents,” and a former football star who literally got away with murder has legions of defenders.

Rather than retreating to the undersides of rocks where they properly belong, celebrity degenerates hold their heads up high, while they lecture us on ethical questions and offer to make moral appeals in our behalf. This chutzpah goes largely unchallenged as people shrug and say: Who am I to pass judgment?

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