The New Sanctimony

By Steve Erickson

By Salon Staff
Published August 23, 2000 7:16PM (EDT)

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Easily the most brilliant analysis of the American soul over this and our most recent generations. This writer was an admiring aide to R.F.K. in his quests for the U.S. Senate and the presidency. That was during an era when politicians' human frailties (e.g., the Southern senator who could not stay sober into the lunch hour each day; the many in both parties who chased skirts) were well known among insiders, including political reporters. But the stories went unreported beyond one-on-one titillation.

We were better off as a nation then, in an excess of silence, than during the horrible display of such sanctimonious figures as the Henry Hydes in the impeachment. And now, incredibly, the beat goes on. Can it never end?

-- William Schechter

The sanctimonious hypocrites may indeed win this next election but they won't win the war. It's a matter of giving them enough rope to hang themselves. When the elected bozos fail miserably to change the moral compass of America (and they will), the country can finally put the nonsense aside, take a huge step forward and do the obvious: remove morality from politics, stop the drug war and embrace sexuality the way Europe does now. It'll be painful for a while longer, but short of some kind of "Handmaid's Tale" right-wing revolution, we're all headed somewhere new and sexy. Too many of us are already there to stop the exodus from our sexually numb past.

-- John Carlton

While I essentially agree with Erickson, he didn't seem to take into account the fact that Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was not an isolated incident, but was part of a pattern that had already threatened his career repeatedly -- so much that his staff called these revelations "bimbo eruptions." His candidacy for president was nearly derailed early on because of one such.

These are mistakes that, aside from morality, a prudent man could be expected to learn from and not to repeat during his tenure as president of the United States. He chose to continue taking such risks, jeopardizing his programs, his name, the stature of his office and the influence of the United States in the world. In this sense, he let us down. We are right to seek a successor with no history of such a shortcoming, and who has promised not to invite a repeat performance.

Although some abroad were puzzled that we made so much of the case for so long and came near to removing him from office, there are precedents for doing so elsewhere and at other times. So it is not fair to claim that the brouhaha was a hang-up peculiar to our own decade or nation.

-- Paul Emmons

The introduction of Lieberman and Gore by their wives; the presence of his daughters on the stage; the celebration of family (a word disdained by the Left and corrupted by the Right) were connecting at deep levels with millions of Americans. What we saw was not sanctimony -- the sanctimony of Erickson's article smelled like a perfume glue strip in Redbook -- but something Americans recognize as a significant part of their lives. Because the fact is, families are doing exactly what was done this week at the DNC whenever they go to PTA meetings, high school plays, elementary band concerts, church, synagogue and mosque. We swap pictures, celebrate accomplishments and introduce each other. We root each other on. It resonated out here and you know what? Many of us don't care that it was hokey and sweet. It beat the hell out of Clinton sexcapades and Henry Hyde's fat ass walking across the stage.

-- Michael Bledsoe

Salon Staff

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