What Did Christian Scholars of Religion and Public Life Say About Bill Clinton in 1998?

Clinton Tix

Tickets to the Clinton Impeachment Trial (Wikimedia Commons)

One of my Facebook followers recently called my attention to a 1998 document that has some implications for our present moment.  The “Declaration concerning religion, ethnics and the crisis in the Clinton presidency” was signed by religious leaders and scholars seeking to bring some moral clarity to the nation during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Look closely at the people who signed this statement. The signers include Catholics, theological liberals, mainline Protestants, progressive evangelicals, evangelicals who might be described as theologically “conservative,” and everyone in-between.

There are parts of this statement that are still useful as we deal with our current president.  I am struck that the writer of this statement is reflecting on how to deal with a president–Bill Clinton–who has asked forgiveness for his indiscretions.  How does this statement hold up today with a president who does not believe in asking for forgiveness?

Here is the entire document:

Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 16, 1998 BY ADMIN IN PRESBYTERIAN NEWS AND ANALYSIS

Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency

The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org, November 16, 1998

The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org

To be released on 13 November 1998

As scholars interested in religion and public life, we protest the manipulation of religion and the debasing of moral language in the discussion about presidential responsibility. We believe that serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage. The resulting moral confusion is a threat to the integrity of American religion and to the foundations of a civil society. In the conviction that politics and morality cannot be separated, we consider the current crisis to be a critical moment in the life of our country and, therefore, offer the following points for consideration:

1. Many of us worry about the political misuse of religion and religious symbols even as we endorse the public mission of our churches, synagogues, and mosques. In particular we are concerned about the distortion that can come by association with presidential power in events like the Presidential Prayer Breakfast on September 11. We fear the religious community is in danger of being called upon to provide authentication for a politically motivated and incomplete repentance that seeks to avert serious consequences for wrongful acts. While we affirm that pastoral counseling sessions are an appropriate, confidential arena to address these issues, we fear that announcing such meetings to convince the public of the President’s sincerity compromises the integrity of religion.

2. We challenge the widespread assumption that forgiveness relieves a person of further responsibility and serious consequences. We are convinced that forgiveness is a relational term that does not function easily within the sphere of constitutional accountability. A wronged party chooses forgiveness instead of revenge and antagonism, but this does not relieve the wrong-doer of consequences. When the President continues to deny any liability for the sins he has confessed, this suggests that the public display of repentance was intended to avoid political disfavor.

3. We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

4. We are concerned about the impact of this crisis on our children and on our students. Some of them feel betrayed by a President in whom they set their hopes while others are troubled by his misuse of others, by which many in the administration, the political system, and the media were implicated in patterns of deceit and abuse. Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.

5. We urge the society as a whole to take account of the ethical commitments necessary for a civil society and to seek the integrity of both public and private morality. While partisan conflicts have usually dominated past debates over public morality, we now confront a much deeper crisis, whether the moral basis of the constitutional system itself will be lost. In the present impeachment discussions, we call for national courage in deliberation that avoids ideological division and engages the process as a constitutional and ethical imperative. We ask Congress to discharge its current duty in a manner mindful of its solemn constitutional and political responsibilities. Only in this way can the process serve the good of the nation as a whole and avoid further sensationalism.

6. While some of us think that a presidential resignation or impeachment would be appropriate and others envision less drastic consequences, we are all convinced that extended discussion about constitutional, ethical, and religious issues will be required to clarify the situation and to enable a wise decision to be made. We hope to provide an arena in which such discussion can occur in an atmosphere of scholarly integrity and civility without partisan bias.

The following scholars subscribe to the Declaration:

1. Paul J. Achtemeier (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

2. P. Mark Achtemeier (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

3. LeRoy Aden (Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia)

4. Diogenes Allen (Princeton Theological Seminary)

5. Joseph Alulis (North Park University)

6. Charles L. Bartow (Princeton Theological Seminary)

7. Donald G. Bloesch (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

8. Carl Braaten (Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology)

9. Manfred Brauch (Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary)

10. William P. Brown (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

11. Don S. Browning (University of Chicago)

12. Frederick S. Carney (Southern Methodist University)

13. Ellen T. Charry (Princeton Theological Seminary)

14. Karl Paul Donfried (Smith College)

15. Richard Drummond (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

16. Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago)

17. Edward E. Ericson, Jr. (Calvin College)

18. Gabriel Fackre (Andover Newton Theological School)

19. Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

20. Joel B. Green (Asbury Theological Seminary)

21. Robert H. Gundry (Westmont College)

22. Scott J. Hafemann (Wheaton College)

23. Roy A. Harrisville (Luther Theological Seminary)

24. Stanley M. Hauerwas (Duke University)

25. Gerald F. Hawthorne (Wheaton College)

26. S. Mark Heim (Andover Newton Theological School)

27. Frank Witt Hughes (Codrington College)

28. Robert Imbelli (Boston College)

29. Robert Jenson (Center for Theological Inquiry)

30. Robert Jewett (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

31. Jack Dean Kingsbury (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

32. Paul Koptak (North Park Theological Seminary)

33. John S. Lawrence (Morningside College)

34. Walter Liefeld (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

35. Troy Martin (Saint Xavier University)

36. James L. Mays (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

37. S. Dean McBride (Union Theological Seminary in Virginia)

38. Sheila E. McGinn (John Carroll University)

39. John R. McRay (Wheaton College)

40. Robert Meye (Fuller Theological Seminary)

41. David Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

42. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

43. Carroll D. Osburn (Abilene Christian University)

44. William A. Pannell (Fuller Theological Seminary)

45. Jon Paulien (Andrews University)

46. John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church)

47. Stephen Pope (Boston College)

48. J. E. Powers (Hope College

49. Mark Reasoner (Bethel College),

50. John Reumann (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia)

51. David Rhoads (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago)

52. W. Larry Richards (Andrews University)

53. Daniel E. Ritchie (Bethel College)

54. Joel Samuels (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

55. David Scholer (Fuller Theological Seminary)

56. Keith Norman Schoville (University of Wisconsin)

57. J. Julius Scott (Wheaton College)

58. Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

59. Christopher R. Seitz (St. Andrews University)

60. Klyne Snodgrass (North Park Theological Seminary)

61. Max Stackhouse (Princeton Theological Seminary)

62. W. Richard Stegner (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

63. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary)

64. R. Franklin Terry (Morningside College)

65. David Tiede (Luther Theological Seminary)

66. Reinder Van Til (Eerdmans Publishing Company)

67. Warren Wade (North Park University)

68. J. Ross Wagner (Princeton Theological Seminary)

69. David H. Wallace (American Baptist Seminary of the West)

70. Timothy P. Weber (Northern Baptist Theological Seminary)

71. Merold Westphal (Fordham University)

72. Jonathan R. Wilson (Westmont College)

73. Edward and Anne Wimberly (Interdenominational Theological Center)

74. Harry Yeide (George Washington University)

What Did James Dobson Tell the National Association of Evangelicals When It Invited Bill Clinton to Its “Annual Event?”

Brantley Gasaway, an American religious historian at Bucknell University and author of the excellent Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justicetweeted this letter today in response to my Washington Post piece on the court evangelicals. It comes from the archives of the National Association of Evangelicals at Wheaton College.

The letter is written from James Dobson of Focus on the Family to Robert “Bob” Dugan Jr., the director of the NAE’s Office of Public Affairs.  Dobson is worried that if President Bill Clinton was invited to this NAE event it would “divide the evangelical community.”

Yes, times have changed.

Here is a transcription:

Feb[ruary 26, [19]94

Bob, My Friend

I think NAE has made a serious costly mistake by inviting the President to your annual event.  He wants to divide the evangelical community. NAE just helped him do it.  I’m disappointed!  Jim.

Dobson.jpg-large

Does anyone know if Clinton came to this “annual event?”

Should “Trump-Loving” Evangelicals Apologize to Bill Clinton?

TRUMPBILL-facebookJumbo-v2

James Dobson made a strong case for the moral character of the President of the United States during the Clinton impeachment crisis in 1998.  You can read about it here.

So did Wayne Grudem.  You can read about it here.

It has now been well-chronicled that Dobson and Grudem have come out in support of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

So does moral character still matter?

Writing at The Atlantic, Jonathan Merritt calls attention to what seems to be the hypocrisy of these “Trump-Loving evangelicals.” He demands that “Trump-loving evangelicals should either apologize to Bill Clinton or admit, after all these years, that they too, have a character issue.”

He adds:

“Character counts.” That was evangelicals’ rallying cry in their all-out assault against Bill Clinton beginning in 1993. In response to what they perceived as widespread moral decline, some religious groups had become aligned with the Republican Party during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. To them, the allegedly draft-dodging, pot-smoking, honesty-challenged womanizer symbolized everything that was wrong with America.

More than two decades after Clinton’s first inauguration, many evangelical leaders of that era have endorsed the draft-dodging, foul-mouthed, honesty-challenged womanizer named Donald Trump for president. Only a handful refuse to follow suit, including Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During the Clinton years, he regularly argued in mainstream media outlets that the Arkansan was morally unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

“If I were to support, much less endorse, Donald Trump for president,” Mohler says, “I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton.”

At least Mohler is consistent, which is more than can be said for some of his peers in leadership. While prominent evangelicals tied Bill Clinton to the public whipping post for nearly a decade to make him pay penance for his character defects, they now celebrate a reality-television star who is at least as flawed. As Mohler said, if these Christian leaders want to endorse Trump, they should apologize to Bill Clinton…

…Evangelicals during the ’90s were not merely concerned with Clinton’s private behavior; they were worried about its effect on a society they felt had already abandoned traditional values. In September 1998, James Dobson of Focus on the Family sent a letter to 2.4 million conservative Christians claiming Clinton should be impeached because his behavior was setting a bad example for our children about “respecting women.” Dobson’s apparent concern for women back then feels like a partisan political move now that he’s given Trump an enthusiastic endorsement.

While Clinton, at least, hid his indiscretions, Trump has paraded his affairs down Broadway for decades. In The Art of the Deal, Trump actually bragged about bedding multiple married women. He’s slept with so many women that he called his ability to avoid STDs “my personal Vietnam.” He’s objectified or insulted the women he hasn’t married, divorced, or slept with, labeling those he finds unattractive with terms like “fat pig,” “dog” or “slob.” In numerous interviews with Howard Stern, he talked in graphic detail about his sexual exploits and discussed which female celebrities are worth a “bang.” How exactly do evangelicals reconcile this behavior with claims that they value respect for women?

Read the entire piece here.

OK, now some thoughts for my evangelical and Christian readers:

There have been a lot of arguments in the evangelical community about whether one should or should not support Trump.  As I argued yesterday, the pro-Trump argument centers on his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. But I hear very little conversation within evangelical circles about how support for Donald Trump impacts Christian witness in the United States and beyond.  No one is talking about how a Trump-loving evangelical bears testimony to his or her faith with unbelievers.  (Last time I checked evangelism was a fundamental tenet of evangelical belief).

Whether we like it or not, or whether it is fair or not, we live in an age when religious conviction and politics are closely linked in the minds of many Americans. If you are an evangelical who supports Trump you are going to have a lot of explaining to do when unbelieving friends and acquaintances ask you how you claim the name of Jesus Christ and still affiliate with the immoral candidate that Merritt describes above.  Somehow I don’t think “well, Hillary is a lot worse” or “we need to win the Supreme Court” is going to be an adequate answer.

What Wayne Grudem Thought About Presidential Character in 1998

grudemI am guessing a lot of my readers have never heard of Wayne Grudem.  He is an evangelical theologian and the author of a very popular one-volume treatment of evangelical systematic theology. He is also well-known within evangelical circles for defending a “complementarian” view of gender roles in the church and society.

Grudem is the quintessential evangelical insider.  He speaks and writes for evangelical churches and rarely ventures out of this subculture to engage a broader American public. This is why most people outside of evangelicalism have never heard of him.

When I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1989-1992) I took a theology course with Grudem.  I don’t remember much about it other than the fact that Grudem spent a lot of time talking about his work on the Biblical idea of prophecy. (I also remember having to read all of Calvin’s Institutes!). He would eventually argue that today’s Christians needed to reclaim the gift of prophecy.  If I remember correctly, he argued that the Holy Spirit could bring divine revelation to a believer’s mind.

During my time at Trinity I attended a major conference called “Evangelical Affirmations.” The purpose of the conference was to draw clearly defined theological boundaries around the word “evangelical.”  Leading evangelical theologians and pastors (mostly conservative evangelicals who upheld the doctrine of biblical inerrancy)  gathered on the Trinity campus in Deerfield, Illinois to try to figure out who was “in” and who was “out.”

One of the most heated debates focused on whether one could truly be called an “evangelical” if he or she did not believe that hell was a literal place–a place of fire and brimstone where unbelievers would spend eternity suffering for rejecting the Christian gospel.  I am guessing that most of the delegates to the Evangelical Affirmations conference would have affirmed the existence of such a place of eternal torment, but whether its literal existence should serve as a defining marker of evangelical faith was complicated by the beliefs of one man: John Stott.

Next to Billy Graham, John Stott is probably the most important and well-respected evangelical of the post-war era.  Even New York Times columnist David Brooks has sung his praises as a thoughtful, wise, humble, and respectable voice of modern evangelicalism.

Stott did not believe in a literal hell.

When the majority of delegates said that a true “evangelical” must believe in a literal hell, someone stood up (I can’t remember who it was) and begged, quite passionately I might add, that the group not define evangelicalism so narrowly that someone as influential as Stott would be excluded. (Stott was not present at the meeting).  Debate raged

Midway through this heated discussion about hell and John Stott, Wayne Grudem stood up.  I remember it vividly.  Grudem recognized Stott’s evangelical faith and his contribution to global evangelicalism, but he also articulated his strong conviction that the evangelical movement must, Stott or no Stott, affirm a belief in a literal hell.

I remember Grudem speaking with a great deal of certainty that day.  Frankly, I could not interpret his words apart from what he was teaching in his class about the so-called gift of prophecy.

I thought about this moment, and Grudem’s views on prophecy, when I read his recent article endorsing Donald Trump for President of the United States.  You can read it here.  I am not going to use this post to argue with his political views.  Later this week I will be a guest on a Christianity Today podcast that, from what I understand, will be using Grudem’s piece as a framing device for a larger discussion on evangelicals and the 2016 election. I will probably offer some history-informed commentary there.  I also appreciate the responses to Grudem’s piece written by Jonathan Merritt, Thomas KiddWarren Throckmorton, David French, Beth Allison Barr, Scot McKnight, Randal Rauser, David Moore, and John Mark Reynolds. Check them out.

In his argument in favor of Trump, Grudem wrote:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

It seems like Grudem wants to ignore these character issues when it comes to Trump’s candidacy.  But back in 1998 he thought that the character of the POTUS was important. Here is a taste of a statement that evangelical leaders signed in response to the moral indiscretions of President Bill Clinton:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

We are concerned about the impact of this crisis on our children and on our students. Some of them feel betrayed by a President in whom they set their hopes while others are troubled by his misuse of others, by which many in the administration, the political system, and the media were implicated in patterns of deceit and abuse. Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.

(Thanks to Katie Manzullo-Thomas and Devin Manzullo-Thomas for digging up this statement when I was writing in June about James Dobson’s support of Trump).

I am not sure which Wayne Grudem to believe–the 1998 anti-Clinton version or the 2016 pro-Trump version.  Perhaps Grudem has changed his mind about presidential character.

Whatever one thinks about Grudem’s views of prophecy, it is worth noting that he does think that prophets are human and sometimes may be wrong. On page 69 of his book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today he writes: “The prophet could err, could misinterpret, and could be questioned or challenged at any point.”

What James Dobson Said in 1998 About Moral Character and the Presidency

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James Dobson, who claims that Donald Trump has had a born-again experience, has decided to join Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory committee.

In my post last night, I criticized Dobson, a long-time evangelical culture-warrior and the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the evangelical understanding of “family values,” for throwing his support behind a presidential candidate who, by all accounts, exemplifies very few signs of Christian character.

Dobson’s embrace of Trump is particularly disturbing in light of what he said about Christian character and the presidency in the 1990s.  Earlier this week, two friends and colleagues dug-up a letter Dobson wrote to his constituency in the wake of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.

You can read the long letter here.

I have posted the entire letter below and have highlighted some of the things Dobson has written that could also be applied to Donald Trump’s candidacy. This is VERY revealing. Dobson seems to have forgotten his own lessons about the moral character of the presidency. (Sorry that this is such a long post, but I wanted to print the entire letter just in case it disappears from the web at some point).

This is a great primary source. I encourage you to interpret it with your students and friends.

September 1998

Dear Friends:

Greetings to you all. Shirley and I have been visiting the historic city of Boston for the past few weeks while working on a new book called Coming Home. I’ll tell you more about that at Christmastime. We have loved being together and are particularly grateful to God for His healing touch after my illness. Toward the end of our trip, however, we were shocked and dismayed by the admission of the President’s affair with “that woman — Miss Lewinsky” — which brought humiliation on himself, his family and our nation. Millions of words have been written and spoken about that sordid story, which I have chosen not to address during these past seven months. But now I want to express some passionate views that are on my heart.

As with many Christians around the country, Shirley and I have been in prayer for our leaders in government who must deal with the fallout from this scandal. They will need great wisdom and discernment in the days ahead. Our most serious concern, however, is not with those in Washington; it is with the American people. What has alarmed me throughout this episode has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying. Because the economy is strong, millions of people have said infidelity in the Oval Office is just a private affair–something between himself and Hillary. We heard it time and again during those months: “As long as Mr. Clinton is doing a good job, it’s nobody’s business what he does with his personal life.”

That disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me. Although sexual affairs have occurred often in high places, the public has never approved of such misconduct. But today, the rules by which behavior is governed appear to have been rewritten specifically for Mr. Clinton. We now know that this 50-year-old man had sexual relations repeatedly and brazenly in the White House, with a woman 27 years his junior. Then he spoke on national television while shaking his finger at the camera, and denied ever having a sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He was the most powerful man in the world and she was a starry-eyed intern. That situation would not have been tolerated in any other setting — ever. And yet the apologists for the President have said endlessly, “It’s just about sex,” as though cheating on your wife was of no particular significance. But the majority of the American people replied, “I support the President.”

Let me ask, in what other context such behavior would have been acceptable? When a professor is known to have had consensual sex with a student, the university dismisses him or her forthwith. Academic institutions recognize their responsibility to protect the interests of younger and more vulnerable individuals. When a corporate executive is similarly accused, especially if numerous women claim to have been “groped” or abused in the manner of Kathleen Willey or Paula Jones, that man is fired. Period! If a middle-aged physician had sex with a younger patient in his office, he would probably lose his medical license. If a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor entered into a sexual relationship with a patient of any age, he would be charged with malpractice. It is stated in the code of ethics for these professions.

How about the stories reported in the military this past year? Lt. Kelly Flinn was charged with having sexual relations with a subordinate and was forced to resign to avoid a court-martial. Sgt. Major Gene McKinney, the U.S. Army’s highest ranking enlisted man, went through a five week trial after being charged with sexual misconduct.  Air Force General Joseph W. Ralston was denied an assignment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because of an affair occurring 14 years ago. 3 Given these and other examples, how can people rationalize the dalliances of the Commander in Chief when those to whom they are accountable are held to a higher standard? Yes, the rules have changed for the President.

How can we forget the excruciating confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas in the U.S. Senate?. Even if Anita Hill’s accusations had been accurate, the worst possible interpretation of Thomas’ behavior was that he “talked dirty” to her. That probably never happened, but even if it did, there was no sex. There were no lies or coverup. No one was involved who was half his age. And yet, many of the same feminists and liberal politicians who viciously sought to destroy Justice Thomas have rallied to support the President. Indeed, Anita Hill showed up on television a few days ago to defend Bill Clinton and to attack the independent counsel, Ken Starr.  Where, may I ask, have other feminist leaders been during this scandal, including Eleanor Smeal, Patricia Ireland, Gloria Steinem and Kate Michelman? Obviously, they are motivated not by the welfare of women but by raw political power.

How did our beloved nation find itself in this sorry mess? I believe it began not with the Lewinsky affair, but many years earlier. There was plenty of evidence during the first Presidential election that Bill Clinton had a moral problem. His affair with Gennifer Flowers, which he now admits to having lied about,  was rationalized by the American people. He lied about dodging the draft, and then concocted an incredulous explanation that changed his story.  He visited the Soviet Union and other hostile countries during the Vietnam War, claiming that he was only an “observer.” Numerous sources reported that he organized and participated in anti-war rallies in the United States, Great Britain, and Norway. Clinton evaded questions about whether he had used marijuana, and then finally offered his now-infamous “I didn’t inhale” response. There were other indications that Bill Clinton was untruthful and immoral. Why, then, did the American people ignore so many red flags? Because, and I want to give the greatest emphasis to this point, the mainstream media became enamored with Bill Clinton in 1992 and sought to convince the American people that “character doesn’t matter.”

Let me share just a few of the hundreds of statements, in print and in the media, that exist on the record. You’ll quickly recognize this effort by the press to undermine the moral values that we called “character.” Hold on to your hat.

“… we can remember that we are electing not clergy but political leaders — who need to be principled and devious, compassionate and brutal, visionary and, sometimes, utterly egotistical. If we try to do much better, we will end up doing worse.”  — Suzanne Garment, San Diego Union-Tribune.1992

[Speaking on behalf of New York University media scholar Jay Rosen], “there is an important distinction between public and private character.What candidates do in private is largely irrelevant, says Rosen. What matters is their public conduct.”  — Jeremy Iggers in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 1992

“He [Clinton] will shave, wheedle, compromise and cajole until he finds — or creates — common ground. He is notorious for his ability to impress strangers and disarm opponents. He is notorious for leading people to believe that he agrees with them entirely…without ever committing himself to their position. This is a gift given only to the best politicians. It is how difficult things get done.” — Joe Klein, Newsweek magazine. 1994

“Whether character is a factor or not is relevant only as it relates to what the people want in terms of a President. They’re looking for someone with the character to get the economy back on track and answer the more serious questions facing this country.”  — Max Parker, a Clinton spokeswoman during the 1992 Presidential campaign.

“Voters re-elected Clinton despite widespread doubts about his character. In CNN’s election day exit poll, most voters continued to say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. They’ve re-elected him because of his job performance — and crossed their fingers that character would not prove to be a major problem.” — Bill Schneider, CNN. 1996

“He has vacillated on issues large and small, and at times he has conducted himself like a man with something to hide. Nevertheless, we think he is still a better choice …” 

“… Clinton was able to defuse the ‘character’ issue by focusing on voters’ own wants and needs. They put their own interests above that issue, and thus relegated all the stories about Clinton’s character to the back burner, or to the trash can. …it means that women and families have decided that it’s more important to have their own issues addressed rather than worry about the character issue.” — Robert A. Jordan of The Boston Globe. 1996.

Clinton is not the only politician in either party who lacks character, certainly, but he is the only one in American history, to my knowledge, who has been specifically applauded for his deceit. Let me share one of the most graphic illustrations of that support. Please read carefully the following statement by noted syndicated columnist, Richard Cohen, after Clinton’s first term.

“… he [Clinton] has been accused of adultery, sexual harassment, and ducking the draft — allegations that send some people into a frenzy of Clinton-hating. The President’s ultimate sin, it seems to some people, is that he appears to have broken the rules — and gotten away with it. That is unforgivable. But to the rest of us, the character issue just hasn’t taken. If we have learned anything over the last four years, it is that strictly personal behavior — in other words, sex — might be interesting, might be titillating, and might be even downright riveting…. One can argue that in both his triumphs and his failures there is a connection between the private and public Bill Clinton. But once the public man is known, the private one just doesn’t seem to matter anymore…. In his own way, Clinton taught us all a lesson about personal character that we should all remember the next time around: It’s sometimes more interesting than important.” — Richard Cohen of The Washington Post. 1996

I wonder what words of wisdom Cohen has to offer about the President now. We don’t have to guess about his colleague at The Washington Post, Michael Kelly. He said a few weeks ago: “[Clinton] will never stop lying. To borrow a hyperbolic description of another of the century’s historic prevaricators, every word he utters is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ He will lie until the last dog dies.” 

It is obvious that the media now realizes they misled the American people. Most of the largest and most influential newspapers in the country are calling for Clinton’s resignation. Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times, said, “Mr. Clinton has killed something worthy and important in public life. All this carnage, and for what? To cover up some seamy sexcapades? His game has grown exhausting.” 

Noemie Emery spoke of Bill Clinton “trailing his fragrant scandals behind him.” Let’s look at the record in the past five years. The American people have been subjected to a barrage of lies and half-truths — from Whitewater, to Filegate, to Travelgate, to Paula Jones, to Kathleen Willey, to the mysterious disappearance of subpoenaed documents, and ultimately, to alleged campaign finance illegalities that may yet bring down the President. If you followed the stories during the past six years, you’ll recognize the names of numerous people associated with convictions or allegations of wrongdoing, including David Hale, David Watkins, Mike Espy, Joycelyn Elders, Henry Cisneros, Webster Hubbell, Ron Brown, Jim Guy Tucker, Hazel O’Leary, Jim McDougal, Susan McDougal, Craig Livingstone, Dick Morris, John Huang, Johnny Chung, Charlie Trie, Al Gore (regarding the Buddhist monks and the illegal telephone calls), and finally, Hillary Clinton, who has been subpoenaed by the independent counsel and given sworn testimony on five separate occasions. 21 There’s a story behind each of these names that are linked to the President. All of this from the man who promised “the most ethical administration in the history of the Republic.” 22

As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no.

Speaking again of the First Lady, we’re being asked to believe that she knew nothing about the President’s escapade. I don’t want to be insensitive during her very difficult trial, but there is something strange about that explanation. After all, Hillary has been over this road before with her husband. Remember her appearance on 60 Minutes in 1992 when candidate Clinton admitted he had “caus[ed] pain in [my] marriage”  regarding the affair with Gennifer Flowers? Hillary has dealt with infidelity at least once. Wouldn’t that have unsettled Mrs. Clinton, especially when she knew about the charges made by Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and possibly others. Are we to believe that this brilliant woman, a highly respected lawyer, neither saw nor heard anything leading her to conclude that her husband was lying? Did their private conversations reveal anything suspicious to her? How could she not have known about Monica these past seven months when the entire world was digging for information? It doesn’t sound believable to me.

This, then, is the key question. If Hillary did know about the affair, does that mean she lied too? And if so, was it not inexcusable for her to appear on the Today Show in January to blame the “right-wing conspiracy”  for trouble that she knew was of her husband’s own making?

One thing is certain: Mr. Clinton has betrayed some of his closest friends, many of them being women who were pressed into his defense. Included among them were Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer,  Betty Currie, Ann Lewis, Dee Dee Myers, Mandy Grunwald, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala,  among others. Columnist Thomas Sowell wrote, “What could be more selfish or more gutless than a man hiding behind a woman, especially a woman young enough to be his daughter.”  Noted in the President’s weak and defensive explanation on August 17 was no mention of Monica Lewinsky and the other cast of characters. The President owes all his defenders an apology.

I think it is also appropriate that the President’s spinmeister, James Carville, apologize to the independent counsel, Ken Starr, for saying “what the man [Starr] ought to do is close up his little obsessive sex shop and go back to whatever he’s doing. And I’m saying this: that this little pygmy of a public man, Ken Starr, this is all he’s got. This is his last dying gasp to save his reputation for history, and it’s not going to work.”  Carville also stated that Starr was “about as independent as a turkey is bright,” 29 “a right-wing partisan hack,” 30 and accused him of “scuzzy, slimy” tactics. 

Can you imagine the President of the United States being represented by such an undignified character? Mr. Starr is a courageous public servant. He has taken the heat to get at the truth, and we haven’t seen all the facts to date. This Christian man, who was asked by the Attorney General to do this thankless job, will be vindicated in the end, and indeed, he has already!

Well, that brings me back to the issue with which we began. The American people have now heard the President’s dramatic confession of adultery. There is no longer any reason to speculate, and yet, the media reports that the majority continues to believe “it doesn’t matter.” At one point during the shocking revelations last month, Clinton’s public approval rating approached 70 percent!  I just don’t understand it. Why aren’t parents more concerned about what their children are hearing about the President’s behavior? Are moms and dads not embarrassed by what is occurring? At any given time, 40 percent of the nation’s children list the President of the United States as the person they most admire.  What are they learning from Mr. Clinton? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal on future generations? How in the world can 7 out of 10 Americans continue to say that nothing matters except a robust economy?

I am left to conclude from these opinions that our greatest problem is not in the Oval Office. It is with the people of this land! We have lost our ability to discern the difference between right and wrong. Biblical moral principles have guided us since the Pilgrims came to these shores. In his farewell address to the Congress in 1796, George Washington said:

“Of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” 

Clearly, this nation has been blessed because it was based on a commitment to biblical morality. But that is changing. Eleven years ago, Gary Hart was forced to withdraw from the Presidential race after a brief tryst,  and yet the majority today seems to find nothing wrong with behavior that is too disgusting to be reported on the evening news.

We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us — but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a nation reaches that state of depravity — judgment is a certainty.

As for the future of Bill Clinton, who knows where his presidency is headed. Because I’m writing this on September 1, he may or may not still be president by the time you read this. I see the President as a prize fighter who’s been staggered by a succession of blows, but he’s still standing. One more solid punch and he could go down. Only time will tell. Regardless of his personal future, I hope that Mr. Clinton will, as William Mattox suggested, “choose to follow in the path of Watergate figure Chuck Colson, a man who came clean with the truth, owned up to his misdeeds and found, at the height of his public humiliation, a new life and a new purpose.”  As with all of us sinners, Jesus Christ is the atonement.

Pray with us for our country, won’t you? Nothing short of a spiritual renewal will save us.

Sincerely,

James C. Dobson, Ph.D
President

A Footnote: There are a few very important quotes that help illuminate this present scandal. In 1974 when Bill Clinton was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Richard Nixon was fighting for his political life after Watergate, he was very outspoken in calling for impeachment. Here are three quotes that take on new significance in the light of Mr. Clinton’s current troubles:

“There’s nothing left to say. There’s not any point now in his putting the country through an impeachment since he isn’t making any pretense of innocence now.” 37 (1974)

“I think it’s plain that the President should resign and spare the country the agony of this impeachment and removal proceeding.” 38 (1974)

“I think the country could be spared a lot of agony and the government could worry about inflation and a lot of other problems if [Nixon would] go on and resign….[there is] no question that an admission of making false statements to government officials and interfering with the FBI and the CIA is an impeachable offense.” 39

Let’s fast forward to 1992 when Clinton was campaigning against George Bush. Here are two quotes that appear relevant today:

“Every time Bush talks about trust, it makes chills run up and down my spine. The very idea that the word ‘trust’ could come out of Mr. Bush’s mouth after what he’s done to this country and the way he’s trampled on the truth is a travesty of the American political system.” 40

“There’s just no such thing as truth when it comes to him (Bush). He just says whatever sounds good and worries about it after the election.” 41

Let me also remind you of a comment made by Mrs. Clinton during that interview on The Today Show on January 27, 1998. When asked, “If an American president had an adulterous relationship in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?” she said, “They [the American people] certainly should be concerned about it… I think that if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense.” 42 That may be the most accurate statement of the interview.

Finally, in 1995, President Bill Clinton made a speech at the University of Connecticut, during which he said:

“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, is the destruction of the truth.” 43

 

There you have it. Perhaps I will post this again and replace “Clinton” with “Trump.” After reading Dobson’s remarks here it leads me to believe that it really is all about politics.

Actually, Carly Fiorina, What You Said About Hillary IS An Exxageration


Here is Carly from last night’s debate:


Imagine a Clinton presidency. Our military will continue to deteriorate. Our veterans will not be cared for. And, no, Mrs. Clinton, that situation is not exaggerated. The rich will get richer. The poor will get poorer. The middle class will continue to get crushed.
And as bad as that picture is, what’s even worse is that a Clinton presidency will corrode the character of this nation. Why? Because of the Clinton way: Say whatever you have to, lie as long as you can get away with it.
We must beat Hillary Clinton. Carly Fiorina can beat Hillary Clinton. I will beat Hillary Clinton. And under a President Fiorina, we will restore the character of this nation, the security of this nation, the prosperity of this nation, because as citizens, we will take our government back.
She definitely know how to play to the GOP base.

Consensus and the "Bill W. Obama" Era

Writing at The Front Porch Republic, Andrew Bacevich argues that politics during the last three presidential terms have been defined by a “neoliberal consensus.”  This consensus, Bacevich argues, is not unlike the consensus that Richard Hofstadter wrote about back in 1948.  Here is a taste of his piece:


In his classic text The American Political Tradition, the historian Richard Hofstadter identified the parameters of that consensus.  It emphasizes, he wrote, “the rights of property, the philosophy of economic individualism, [and] the value of competition.”  It assumes “the natural evolution of self-interest and self-assertion … into a beneficent social order. ”  Grab and get ultimately works for the larger benefit of all.  That, at least, is the idea….
To imply that all Americans subscribe to this neoliberal consensus would be misleading, of course.  A loosely-organized antiwar movement objects, however ineffectually, to Washington’s penchant for military adventurism.  Moral traditionalists protest against the casting off of social conventions, again without discernible impact on policy.  Risking the charge of engaging in class warfare, groups such as the Occupy Wall Street movement raise a ruckus about the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else.  Again, the effects of their efforts appear negligible.
As far as their practical impact is concerned, these dissenters might as well be locked in a soundproof booth.  They shout, but are not heard.  Hofstadter had anticipated their predicament.  “The range of ideas … which practical politicians can conveniently believe in,” he observed, “is normally limited by the climate of opinion that sustains their culture.”
Here we come to the heart of the matter:  the climate of opinion.  Only politicians who possess an aptitude for interpreting the prevailing climate will succeed in gaining and holding high office.  In the political sphere, ideas at variance with that climate are by definition inconvenient.  Expedience dictates that they should be ignored.

What City Will Get the Barack Obama Presidential Library?

Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock

Honolulu, New York, and Chicago are all in the mix.  A foundation has been formed to “manage the library process” and an architect may have already been chosen. Witold Rybczynski, a professor of urbanism at Penn, discusses the history of presidential libraries in the New York Times and suggests that Obama should “go small” by simply donating his papers to the National Archives.  Here is a taste:

But where the library is situated or who designs it is less important than whether Mr. Obama will follow the grandiose example of his predecessors, or chart a new course

A presidential library is an archive, museum and shrine, rolled into one. The archive preserves presidential papers (which are the property of the government) for the benefit of future scholars. The museum contains educational exhibits. The shrine is represented by displays of personal mementos: the Bible on which Harry S. Truman took his oath of office, the extra-long sofa from Lyndon B. Johnson’s Senate office, Gerald R. Ford’s college football trophies. A centerpiece of the Kennedy Library, on Boston Harbor, is his sailboat, the Victura. The Eisenhower and Nixon libraries include the presidents’ boyhood homes. The sprawling Reagan Library houses the largest of all presidential artifacts: Air Force One.

Springsteen Stumps for Obama in Parma, Ohio

Here is some of what he had to say yesterday. 

I’m here today for Ohio, and for President Obama, and because for 30 years I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality. I’ve been gauging that distance through a big part of my life. I’ve seen it from inside and oustide: as a blue-collar kid from a working-class home in New Jersey — where my parents struggled, not always successfully, to make ends meet — to the Ninth Ward in New Orleans after Katrina, to meeting folks from food pantries all around the United States, working daily to help our struggling citizens through the hard times we’ve been suffering through.

Our vote — our vote is the one principal way we get to determine that distance in that equation. Voting matters. Elections matter. Think of the events of the last 12 years and try to convince yourself they don’t. We get an individual hand in shaping the kind of America we want our kids to grow up in.

I’m a dad, I’ve got three kids, I’m 63… and I’ve lived through some galvanizing moments in American history: the Civil Rights struggle, the peace movement, times when you could feel the world shifting under your feet. I remember President Obama’s election night was an evening when you could feel the locked doors of the past finally being blown open to new possibilities.

But then comes a hard, daily struggle to make those possibilities real in a world that is brutally resistant to change. We’ve seen that over the past four years; the forces of our opposition have been tireless.

But I came here today because I’m thankful for universal health care, the lack of which was for so long an embarrassment to our country. I’m thankful for a more regulated Wall Street. I’m thankful GM is still making cars. What else would I write about?! I’d have no job without that!

I’m here today because I’m concerned about women’s rights. I don’t have to tell you about the dangers to Roe v. Wade under our opponent’s policies.

I’m also here today because of the continuing disparity in wealth between our best-off citizens and our everyday citizens. That’s a disparity that I believe our honorable opponents’ policies will only increase and that threatens to divide us into two distinct and foreign nations, until many of us are going to end up like a song I wrote in the 1980s, “Jackson Cage”: “just the scenery in another man’s play.” If we marginalize so many of our citizens, their talents, their energies, their voices will go unfound and unheard. We will lose their contributions to this great land of ours; we will impoverish ourselves and set ourselves on the road to decline. So their opportunities must be protected, and I think President Obama understands this.

And I’m here today because I’ve lived long enough to know that despite those galvanizing moments in history, the future is rarely a tide rushing in. It’s often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day, and I believe we are in the midst of those long days right now. And I’m here because I believe President Obama feels those days in his bone, for all 100 percent of us. I believe he’s got the strength, the commitment, and the vision to live these days with us, and to carry the standard forward toward a country where, as I’ve written, “nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.”