Eat At Joes

Just a regular Joe who is angry that the USA, the country he loves, is being corrupted and damaged from within and trying to tell his fellow Americans the other half of the story that they don’t get on the TV News.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Parties Focus on Different Moralities

The Story Online
Last week in Illinois the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Jack Ryan, withdrew from the race after his divorce records revealed that he had taken his now ex-wife to kinky sex clubs. He admitted that he had taken her to one such club in Paris, and that was enough to do him in. A few days later he exited the race.

The class-act story here is Barack Obama, Ryan's Democratic opponent. A rising star in the Democratic Party, Obama responded to news of his opponent's sexcapades by saying, "I don't really care about private morality, I'm more concerned with public morality."

In that statement lies the root of the great cultural divide between hard-core Democrats and religious Republicans.

Democrats are outraged over the public immorality of George W. Bush and his administration -- its justifications, denials and lies about everything from corporate complicity to the reasons for invading Iraq.

Republicans seem far more consumed by private morality -- gays who seek the "normalcy" of marriage, women who confront the difficult choice to end a pregnancy, and, paradoxically, the sex life of their own Jack Ryan.

Bringing both groups to a full boil are the side-by-side releases of Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," and Michael Moore's contentious blockbuster film, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

With Bill Clinton making the chat-show rounds we once again visit the lapse in his personal morality that imploded his otherwise extraordinary presidency. Out of 957 pages about a complicated and brilliant man, the press has fixated on those dealing with Monica Lewinsky. "I did it because I could," says a barely penitent Clinton of his infamous dalliance, and half the nation gags while the other half stifles a yawn.

But it's George Bush's lack of public morality that's on display in "Fahrenheit 9/11." We see him profiting from his family's old and oily ties to the Bin Laden family and from his cozy cheek-to-cheek relationship with his father's corporate cronies. In one clip from the film Bush is seen at an elegant white-tie fundraiser smugly joking, "Some people call you the elite; I call you my base."

More disturbing is the footage which portrays him as a man lacking the gravitas to understand the cataclysmic consequences of his public actions. He rolls his eyes and mugs for the camera as the clock ticks down to his televised announcement that he has ordered the bombing of Iraq. He comes across not as a man wrestling with the morality of his decision, but as a man blowing up a foreign country, because he can.

Predictably the film has roiled the fair and balanced sensibilities of Bush's right-wing claque.

The conservative Citizens United, which played a leading role in pressuring CBS to pull its Reagan docudrama off the air last fall, has filed suit with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that ads for the film are political and should not be allowed to air on TV. Other pro-Bushies have called for boycotts of theaters which run the film and denounced Moore as an "America hater."

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who writes with a well-crafted right-wing slant, excoriated not only Michael Moore, but American liberals for what he calls their adulation of Moore. "The standards of socially acceptable liberal opinion have shifted," he writes. "We're a long way from John Dewey." Well, yes, and a long way from Dewey's Republican contemporary, President Teddy Roosevelt, for that matter, who once said, "Public rights come first; public interest second."

Brooks et al. don't have a leg to stand on when the best-known media standard bearer of conservative opinion is Rush Limbaugh, no slacker himself in the private immorality sweepstakes, with a cadre of lying radio jackals yipping along behind him.

Bill Clinton's personal immorality distracted a nation and hurt him and his family terribly, but he presided over a bountiful eight years, eliminated the national debt and honed America's image abroad to a sparkling finish, at least in the eyes of all but the most rabid fundamentalists like the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Back then, most people wanted to be like us.

George Bush may have a very tidy private life, but his public immorality has squandered billions of dollars as well as world opinion and prestige. It has saddled our children's futures with billowing debt, sold the nation's environment to the highest bidder and compromised its health to appease the religious right.

And it has resulted in the deaths of over 850 Americans and thousands of Iraqis, leaving broken and anguished families in both countries, with an unclear plan, at best, for the future. It is this anguish which Moore documents most wrenchingly.

Barack Obama wouldn't have put it this way, but given the stakes, I'm more concerned with the public fool than the private philanderer.


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