by Sean Hannity, 7/16/01
You know what bothers me about the Gary Condit scandal? Already there's a drumbeat to gloss over the adultery part of it. Sure, there are other much more serious problems. A young intern is missing. She's almost certainly been murdered. There are allegations of obstructing justice, abuse of power, and so on. But do we really want to come to a national conclusion that adultery is not our concern just because there are larger issues involved?
I don't think so. And yet, there I am, sitting on the set at Fox News last week, listening to Dick Morris define adultery as a private decision between a congressman and his intern. Now Dick's a smart guy—adviser to presidents and senators, a political whiz for sure. But I'm watching his mouth move and his words seem strange—in fact, from another planet.
"It's none of your business or my business what an adult congressmen does with an adult intern," he says, meaning I assume anyone over 18. "We cannot get to a point where sex between consenting adults—even if it's adulterous—is grounds for dismissal or resignation from Congress, but withholding information when a girl's life is in danger sure is....Hey, sex with interns is acceptable, murder is not."
What's happening to this country? Who says we have to make a choice between murder and adultery as a reason to throw a bum out? What are we doing, making a list? Let's see...a congressman must resign if he/she commits murder, rape, torture, child molestation, genocide, or adultery—wait a minute—that's six and we can only have five impeachable offenses. So, OK, we'll dump the least offensive from the list of "man's-inhumanity-to-man" reasons why a congressman should resign or be tossed out.
Of course, we don't have to make that choice. Congressmen should be ousted for both murder and adultery (not to mention the others). Even in jaded Europe, politicians still resign because of sex scandals with interns. At least they have some shame left. But here in America—where we're supposed to be leaders of the free world—I have to listen to Dick Morris joke that if all the adulterous politicians were removed from Congress, they couldn't hold a quorum. OK, that's funny for a second. Then you want to cry. These are among the most powerful men and women in the world. Since when is betraying spouse and family no big deal? Since when is leading a lying, double life—tiptoeing around elevators in disguise—an acceptable way for our leaders to conduct their private lives? That's the real scandal.
Try this on for size: While it's true that adultery isn't against the law, our culture should still reject it and view it as something devastating to family structure—which it absolutely is. We should find adultery intolerable in our midst, and especially among our political leaders. Let's face it, any nation that wants a future in this world must protect its social integrity. And yet, step by step, we keep lowering the moral bar for our leaders, not a smart thing for a free society that depends on its leaders to be honest brokers. It seems to me that adultery—especially with interns—is a good place to draw the line when it comes to private perversions. Of course, there's really nothing private about it, as Condit is learning.
What is adultery at its core? It's gross dishonesty directed at the very people who depend on your honesty the most—your family. Adultery is "breach of trust" in the extreme. You made a commitment in the form of a serious pledge to your wife or husband and your children—adultery makes that pledge a pathetic joke. Adultery says that the honor of your family is no big deal. Adultery says you have no self-control, or worse you don't want it.
But meanwhile pundits like Dick Morris would have us believe that people who betray their families by night are, by day, completely honorable with their constituents, their fellow politicians, and their staff (not counting interns). In this post-Clinton era, we increasingly encounter this "laissez affair" attitude—adultery apologists tell us personal behavior does not affect public policy. What, are they nuts?
A case could be made that not only does private behavior affect public policy, private behavior is public policy. Not all politicians live by polls. Most of them actually believe in and live by their votes. How do we think divorce got to be so accepted in American society? Do we really think our political leaders back then had no personal ideas about divorce in their own lives? Can you think of any politician who is gay who stands firm against gay rights—or imagine pot-smoking politicians fighting to keep their habit illegal? Private behavior is not only relevant in our national dialogue, it is the key to understanding what's happening in America.
And it's not just our politicians. More and more Americans are excusing their personal "dalliances." There's that word the pundits love—as if adultery's not so bad when it's called a dalliance...or how about "peccadillo." I left church that Easter Sunday and spent the afternoon at the White House having oral sex with an intern half my age, but it's OK, honey, cause it's just my peccadillo at work. We can tell the children it was a dalliance, dear, a little hanky-panky, just an extra-marital affair; that's all.
The rationalizations are getting incredible. I had one guy call my WABC radio show last week and tell me that he had to have an affair because it was the only way he could stay sane in his unhappy marriage. That's the culture talking through us. No, he didn't have to have an affair—he chose to have an affair because he thought it would give him something extra. Maybe it did—maybe it didn't. The point is that if we can't be faithful to our spouses, we'll have no social structure that will last—no culture with any wisdom—and no hope for our young. Fewer and fewer children come from two-parent families. No surprise. Before long we are going to be a country of basket-case kids, who become basket-case, voting adults.
We need a national dialogue—an honest one—to ask some hard questions. I have a friend whose particular Jewish tradition requires arranged marriages, and guess what? They have a much lower divorce rate. What is it that they know that we don't know? Now I'm not suggesting arranged marriages, but let's at least have the courage to understand why their culture works the way it does. What can we learn from them?
First, the young obviously honor their parents and trust their advice. Second, they come from a strong culture and faith that absolutely frowns on adultery (intolerant, aren't they?). But third, and perhaps most important, they enter their marriages with a different attitude than we romantics who expect never-ending happy days of marital bliss. They marry to love and serve each other. It's about life and love—not pleasure and happiness.
We want our politicians to serve us honorably in just this way—to have an understanding that next to their families, we are the most important duty in their lives. Our warriors are expected to sacrifice their lives for us, but all we ask of our political leaders is that they be self-sacrificing in the duties of their office. Second to their families, they should be honor-bound to us. I guess that's the point, isn't it? If we are second in importance to their families and they break faith with their families, then where does that leave us?
Condit should resign as a matter of honor. But of course, that requires having honor in the first place. He's already traded that away for a little pleasure, a little fleeting happiness. Now he's lost both—his honor and the pleasure that was so important to him. I wonder how he'll vote if his constituents in Modesto, Calif., decide that people should be able to sue for damages in civil court when their spouses commit adultery. Of course, we all know personal behavior doesn't affect public policy, don't we?