In light of the conclusion of the Senate trial of the president, the editors of THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked 22 writers, thinkers, and political actors the following questions: "President William Jefferson Clinton has been impeached and acquitted. What have we learned? What should we do now"?
WE MAY NOT KNOW FOR A WHILE what we have learned. The nation has undergone a trauma and it is very difficult to know the precise effects of this trauma. Also, much of what is "learned" we may have already known. With these two caveats, here are one American's provisional conclusions:
1) There is a culture war, but it is not symmetrical. Most conservatives despise two people: the Clintons. Most liberals despise millions of people: conservatives, especially religious ones. In general, conservatives deem liberals wrong; liberals deem conservatives evil.
2) America is metamorphosing from a morality-based to a law-based society. The terribly high number of lawyers in America and in politics has had awful effects on society. People are beginning to think like lawyers. American life is literally being de-moralized -- moral categories (and common sense) are being replaced by legal categories. Thirty years ago it would have mattered that the president of the United States lied to the country and under oath; now it only matters that he did not commit perjury.
3) To all but true believers, the feminist movement has disgraced itself. It has always been morally bankrupt -- e.g., its defense of all abortions for any reason and at any time of pregnancy. Now it is as clearly intellectually bankrupt. The movement had been telling us that "consensual" is a meaningless term when applied to a powerful man and a subordinate woman. They were fooling us. When the powerful man is charming and pro-feminist, a feminist would, as one feminist said, get on her knees to service the man herself.
4) Millions of American men have now been told that millions of American women do not view extramarital sex as particularly troubling. UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Marmer told me that some of his male patients have said that thanks to women's passionate support of Clinton, they feel much freer to fool around. This makes sense. The reason most married men do not engage in extramarital sex is fear of their wives' reactions. The moment men begin believing that women don't care that much, they will do what their nature demands.
5) In 1994, the Republican party stood for so much that it compiled a detailed Contract With America. By 1998, the party stood for virtually nothing and placed its political and intellectual eggs in the anti-Clinton basket. One cannot base policy on opposition to an individual. Even if Bill Clinton is a lowlife, as most conservatives believe he is, it was a terrible error to focus all their energies on opposing him. They should have welcomed his non-liberal policies and opposed his liberal ones.
6) Liberals and Democrats created the Office of Independent Counsel in order to criminalize politics. And they created the sexual-harassment laws that have made it possible and inevitable to explore men's private lives. The nation has reaped what the Democrats have sown. At the same time, conservatives should have cringed while watching tens of millions of public dollars spent on investigating a prepresidential financial scandal and what books an intern bought at a Washington, D.C., bookstore.
7) Unfortunately, I still do not believe that sexual fidelity and political leadership are related. Since King David, they haven't been. I wish they were. Life is messy.
What to do?
Five years ago, I became a Republican for one reason -- aside from the religious renaissance, the Republican party was the only force in America that could stop Democrats and liberals from further eroding America's fundamental values. I still believe that undoing and preventing liberal damage is the most noble and honest Republican agenda. This means:
First, relentlessly attack the two most powerful interest groups in the Democratic party -- trial lawyers and the teachers' unions. They are inflicting terrible wounds on our country.
Law is coming to be used as a form of income redistribution and non-violent terrorism. That Sen. John McCain Believes smoking to be a greater danger to Americans than confiscating billions of dollars from the poor and giving that money to trial lawyers is a prime example of the moral confusion that has affected even important Republicans.
Professional educators and teachers' unions have ruined much of America's public schooling. They have robbed young children of innocence through ideas such as sex education and sexual-harassment warnings to fourth graders. They have stymied Hispanic success through bilingual education and divided America through their multicultural agenda.
Second, work for deep tax cuts. Americans are paying the highest rates of income tax in their history. This has terrible moral and economic consequences. It makes people more reliant on the state than on one another; it discourages saving; it creates cheats out of otherwise honest men and women; it leads people to believe that it is right to take away money from other people; and it forces innumerable mothers to leave their young children to earn a salary.
If our message is unheeded, let the country elect liberals and live with the consequences. Then they will come back to us. And we will know what to do. We should never seek power for power's sake.
Dennis Prager's radio show on KABC, in Los Angeles, is about to be nationally syndicated. His latest book is Happiness Is a Serious Problem (HarperCollins).