Promises Without Principle

  This political campaign, in some ways, makes me long for the good old days when hypocrites were really hypocrites. There simply is no such thing anymore. Let me give you some examples of why I say that. Two weeks ago the Clinton Administration announced economic sanctions on Japan for harvesting sperm whales the same day it argued against sanctions on China for human rights abuses. No one in Washington or the press seemed to catch the irony. Or take the case of the Republican senator who spent much of his campaign promoting family values, then divorced his wife and set off new rumors about his relationships with others on his staff. Nobody seemed to mind. Or how about both parties scooping up record amounts of soft money while publicly advocating campaign finance reform. Exhibit "A" is New York where the two Senate candidates have agreed not to use soft money. Good. But then they have gone off raising it all the same, and no one is criticizing. Or look at Al Gore and JoeLieberman, with their conveniently timed Hollywood tour that coincided, amazingly, with the release of the FTC report on the negative impact of TV violence on kids. The news didn't keep them from their Hollywood fund-raiser that netted a cool $4.5 million. Those who ponied up for those huge amounts were assured that they didn't really have to anything to worry about. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. So what do all these episodes have in common? Not once has the press ripped into the candidates for hypocrisy. In an earlier age, media watchdogs would have been all over them. But now, nobody seems to care. Why in heaven's name do we tolerate such behavior? Where's our sense of public outrage? The answer, I'm afraid, is that our culture has moved beyond hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice renders to virtue, but if there's no vice or virtue, and no absolutes, then how can there be hypocrisy? And that seems to be the reasoning. The candidates are able to do this without fear. Deconstruction and postmodernism have led to the point where there is no truth and no principles worth defending. Americans can hold two utterly conflicting thoughts in our mind at the same time with no tension whatsoever. We have repealed the law of non- contradiction. We read just this last week that 400 Clinton favorites have stayed over at the White House, a quarter of whom just happened to contribute to Hillary's campaign, and the White House press secretary sneers, "[O]f course there's no connection." Well, in one sense there isn't, because there's no connection between anything anymore. It's enough to make you long for the good old days when hypocrites were hypocrites and we could still be offended by it. Before a dinner party one evening, the great English writer Samuel Johnson was told that a guest believed morality was a sham. Johnson roared, "If he really believes there's no distinction between virtue and vice, let us count the spoons before he leaves." Well, we in America had better start counting spoons. It's bad enough when the candidates court voters with promises of bounty from the public coffers. It's something else again when the promises are empty, and we don't care. When we fail to hold our leaders accountable to standards of right and wrong, we will have lost the right to be free.


Chuck Colson


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