It’s Morality, Stupid

As the tawdry details of the Lewinsky scandal continue to fill the nation's airwaves, President Clinton has said that the whole sordid episode might actually be good for America. Well, he's right—but not for the reason he thinks. The scandal could be good for America because it has re-awakened, after a long slumber, our sense of moral outrage. We've all seen the polls that show high approval ratings for the president. These polls have caused frustration among Christians who fear that the public doesn't care—that the economy is more important than the rule of law or moral questions. Well, we needn't worry. I was on Capitol Hill last week for the attempt to override the president's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion bill. I visited many Congressional offices and leaders and I found out just how little those polls mean. What every senator and congressman told me—Republican and Democratic alike—was that constituents are calling in in huge numbers, and the calls are running strongly against the president. In Senator Fred Thompson's office, for example, the calls are running ten to one against the president. House Majority Leader Dick Armey told me that he did a survey of all the Republican members, and even in the offices of the most liberal members the calls are running three to two against President Clinton. The Democratic members I talked to are getting exactly the same type of calls. And the callers are utterly furious, and getting angrier every time a poll indicates people don't care. That's why our leaders are not putting much stock in the polls. Polls measure the reactions of an electorate in which, generally, only a third of the people vote anyway. The remaining two-thirds are mostly indifferent to what's going on in politics. But the people who are calling in Washington are the ones who are going to vote—and they are absolutely outraged. One senator told me: "I'd be afraid to try to put this issue aside because of the fury of the people out there who think the Constitution has been abused, and this man has demeaned the office." An outraged one-third electorate is more influential than an indifferent two-thirds. The public reaction to the scandal has sobered the Congress like nothing I've ever seen in all the years I have been around politics. Almost every Senator said the same thing, "We don't care what the polls say. This is one of the times we have to do our constitutional duty." Speaker Newt Gingrich looked me straight in the eye and said, "This is one time when men and women in Congress have got to stand up and do what is right. Deciding on impeachment proceedings is our most sober responsibility outside of a declaration of war." So the silver lining in all this is that the scandal has generated, both on Capital Hill and in the media, a genuine moral debate. Congressmen are now saying that we have to decide what moral values we will live by: How are we going to order our lives together? What are the bounds of decency? When Clinton was elected, the pundits told us: "It's the economy, stupid." Well, Clinton's legacy may help us understand why good government is about much more than the economy. And his legacy may well be, "It's morality, stupid."


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary