The left-wing conspiratorial strategy for diverting attention from allegations about President Clinton's wanderings from the marital bed is becoming clear: Expose other Democrats, reinforcing the view that "everybody does it," and so long as the economy remains strong, none of us should concern ourselves with what a public official does in private.
The latest participant to be revealed as a player in the adultery game is Democratic National Committee Chairman and Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who last week publicly acknowledged a 16-year "very affectionate relationship" with a longtime aide, 51-year-old Betty Jane Thornberry. She now works in a high position at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which she no doubt got on her own without any special consideration.
The relationship was exposed by Insight magazine, which said it was given videotapes which show the 69-year-old governor kissing and embracing Ms. Thornberry. Other tapes reportedly show him spending the night with Ms. Thornberry at her Washington home. The story is especially significant because Mr. Romer has been a staunch defender of President Clinton's veracity in the numerous sexual and other allegations surrounding the President's conduct in office. As Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) noted, "Any defense [Mr. Romer] does of the president's escapades will be taken with a grain of salt, or tongue in cheek. For 16 years, he lied and lied and lied."
During a hastily called news conference in Denver, Mr. Romer sounded as dissembling as President Clinton in his attempts to explain relationships with Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and Gennifer Flowers. "It is not a sexual relationship," said the governor. "But it is a very affectionate relationship. I'm not trying to define where affection ends and sex begins." Most people could make such a distinction, but even Hillary Clinton has spoken of her husband's "affection" for women, so perhaps Mr. Romer is taking his lead from the first lady.
As Bea Romer, his wife of 45 years, stood near him looking uncomfortable, Gov. Romer said, "I also have a very workable and close relationship with my wife." He referred to the arrangement as "negotiated" and that it "has allowed our family to stay together." One wishes that at just one of these now-familiar mea culpas, the long-suffering wife would say something like: "You may have lost your integrity, buster, but I'm keeping mine. Take your stuff and get out of the house."
Asked why he didn't admit to the affair in 1990 and in 1994 when he was running for elective office, Mr. Romer said he didn't have the "confidence that you could be this forthcoming and still be given a chance to serve in public life."
Insight's senior editor, Jamie Dettmer, had it right: "Part of our role is to expose humbug when we find it. Romer's been very staunch in defense of President Clinton and in telling America, I'm taking the president at his word, and you can trust me. I'm a man of high ethical and moral standards."
Mr. Romer is the father of seven children and the grandfather of 15. He said, "My ability to communicate on whether children should have education and good health, or how families should communicate and relate with each other, is not diminished by this. In fact, it's probably enriched by it."
Enriched? I don't think so. Mr. Romer has certainly diminished himself in the eyes of his wife, children, and grandchildren. Is this the kind of behavior he would advise them to emulate? Is this how other people expect the male members of their families to behave? Do you suppose Bea Romer said: "That's OK, honey, the economy is strong, so you go out and have a good time with your bimbo"?
The more we say we tolerate such things in our leaders, the more we will get of it, and the more it will be accepted as "normal." Virtue isn't caught, like catching a cold. To get in moral shape requires resisting temptation and embracing integrity-not embracing a woman not your wife.
Worse than adulterous behavior is the growing acceptance of it by the public, if the polls are right. Women, especially, should realize that if they don't demand upright behavior in public men, they might soon be facing "downright" behavior in their own men.
© 1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate