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"Jenny Sanford for Senate - Commentary Joseph C. Phillips"

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The schadenfreude of the new left over the public unraveling of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford suggests that when it comes to the issue of public officials and private morality, they are possessing of a particularly twisted logic, to say nothing of a rather short memory. It was not long ago that liberals were passionately arguing that it was only sex and that of course any self-respecting man lies about sex. In full voice they sang the immortal words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”

It was even more recently that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (D) confessed to having an affair with the wife of his campaign manager and good friend. Senator Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) response? “Look, we all make mistakes.” Sanford’s indiscretion is greeted by the left with derision (and with censure by South Carolina Republicans); Newsom is now running for Governor.

How can this be? Is it an aversion to the idea of any objective moral standard? A different philosophy in the requirements of leadership? One can certainly assign a portion of it to the new liberal maxim- embraced by the mainstream media-that conservatives are evil while liberals are good. Blame the rest on the left’s tendency to confuse principles with men.

A belief in universal moral virtues that transcend race, culture and economic status is a precept of conservatism. For new liberals public advocacy of this ideal is hypocrisy disguised as sanctimony. Therefore, when conservatives fail to clear that moral high bar, to liberal eyes it is not only testimony of the vacancy of the principles it is also confirmation of the ultimate depravity of the conservative mind and evidence of why they can’t be trusted with public office.

Because there is little value in principles, for the new liberal it is much better to set the moral bar as low as possible or better yet do away with it all together; simply proclaim that morality is relative and that what is good and true for you may not be true and good for me. And because progressives are doing the good work of bringing about social justice when they inevitably fail to live up to the rather low moral expectations they set, it is for them simply evidence of their humanity and a private matter not for public consumption.

What they miss is that it is precisely the onward march of progressivism that makes the private failings of public servants very much our business.

There was a time in our history when what we expected from our public servants was that they kept the machinery of government well oiled. Times have changed. Progressive politics ushered in an era of leaders as visionaries. Our leaders now ask us to trust them to use the machinery of government to solve the problems of mankind – to make our lives better. We are asked to follow them as they lead us into the Promised Land. It is precisely this change in the focus of leadership that makes the issue of private morality important. The question is not one of sex so much as it is one of credibility and judgment.

If a man can’t be trusted to guard the faith of his wife and the mother of his children, can he be depended upon to guard the public trust? Appeals to the greater social good ring hollow when made by men that visit disaster on their own families and the families of others.

It is ironic indeed that as we are asked to turn ever growing amounts of control over our personal lives to government, we are simultaneously being asked to dismiss notions of moral accountability as prudish or worse.

Of course none of this will make any sense if you are of the opinion that tradition is “so yesterday.” It will make even less sense if the inability of individual men to live up to certain principles is proof of the worthlessness of the principles as opposed to evidence of the weakness of the men.

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.

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