Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Camp of Minneapolis-Saint Paul has made himself a wonderful career as a novelist under the pseudonym John Sandford. His best-selling Prey series features Minneapolis supercop Lucas Davenport. In one recent volume a character asks Davenport: “Why is it that Democrats are always having money scandals and Republicans are always caught in sex scandals?”
Lucas replies: “My theory is that Democrats are guys who know how to get girls but not how to make money. Republicans are guys who know how to make money but not how to get girls. When they each encounter both readily available in politics, they fall for the one they’re not used to.”
Within the space of a few days, two of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Senator Ensign of Nevada and Governor Sanford of South Carolina have confessed to extramarital affairs and resigned their honorary positions, although both still cling to their elected seats. They join names like Craig, Foley, Gingrich, Vitter, Livingston, Cunningham and Hyde as Republicans caught with their… er, guards down in recent years.
It is not my place to moralize on the subject of adultery, but I do feel entitled to moralize about adulthood. This country is engaged in an epic battle between two starkly opposed ideologies. There is a group committed to the principle that individual lives should be subjugated to the collective will as expressed by government. It shifts tactics for convenience, sometimes saying the people will choose poorly, sometimes saying they will choose selfishly. Propelled by the hurtling momentum of an economic downturn, this cadre is within an ace of sweeping to a devastating victory.
All that stands between us and tyranny — quasi-beneficent tyranny, to be sure — is a shrunken group of Republicans in Congress. To stop the deluge they must stand tall and unblinking. We ask them to press our suit, and what do we get? The Emperor has no pants.
As absurd as it may seem, we may find that the future of this country was bankrupted — by cap and trade, by government health care, by trillions in phony stimuli — because of a few idiot Republicans who were too busy in motel lobbies to worry about the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. They were too busy writing e-mails to females to notice the bills and the billions.
Voters see this behavior as hypocritical because Republicans have taken some stands on issues defining sexuality in the culture. That charge never bothers me; falling short of an ideal does not disqualify the effort. When a person tries to be good but is tripped up by unwieldy appetites, that is not a comedy but a tragedy. It should be a darn-it moment, not a gotcha moment. Yet when one is a member of a depleted nucleus fighting to preserve our way of life, there should be sufficient intelligence and responsibility not to forsake the alliance for a dalliance.
It is true that power can corrupt. It can certainly dangle enough carrots. Abraham told Abimelech that without a sense of morality, enlightened self-interest would not be enough to keep a man from sinning or from taking another man’s due. On an ultimate level that is true, and to expect rulers-for-life not to assemble harems is probably unrealistic. But for a four- or six-year term you would think a man of intelligence could focus enough willpower on his very limited spare time to avoid spending his political capital on things of the moment, things of no moment.
Enough carping about the past. It is now June 2009, with the Congressional elections clocking in next in November 2010. That gives conservatives, Republican or otherwise, seventeen months to regroup. Can we issue a call for all such men and women to get their affairs in order, so to speak? Can we postpone the earth-shattering romances, the two hearts bleeding as one, the eyes meeting across the room and the sappy sophomoric love notes until after leaving office? Be Malcolm Forbes in your old age, wear leather, drive a motorcycle, humiliate your children, live it up. Just not on our time, please.
For a while the buzzword was making government smarter. It was intended to suggest wiser spending and management. For now we will accept some basic street smarts. Keep your eye on Byrd’s trillions flying out the window and your ear off the trilling of little birdies flying by. There is a term for the behavior of these Republican politicians, but I will refrain from using it here because I, for one, have term limits.