This Week

Issue: "The Jonesboro puzzle," April 11, 1998

Worth a thousand words

Someone's missing from this year's group picture of Senate pages from Iowa-President Clinton. The pages' group shot is always taken in front of the Senate president's chair, with the official portrait of the sitting United States president in the background. This year, the high-school students who serve as pages voted to remove Mr. Clinton's portrait from the background because of the scandal surrounding the president's alleged relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "He's not the best role model for young people," said page Matt Johnston. "It was a majority consensus to remove his picture for our group picture." The pages returned Mr. Clinton's portrait to its traditional spot after a photographer took the group picture.

By the book

CBS did itself proud in coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament that concluded last week. From the dramatic early victories by Valparaiso through the dramatic second-half comebacks by eventual national champion Kentucky, viewers saw those made in God's image using their muscles and minds to the utmost. And many of the winners and losers did not fail to thank their Creator publicly along the way; CBS showed Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and guard Jeff Sheppard, the Final Four's most outstanding player, doing just that. CBS may have a different attitude, however, when covering athletes who quote what the Bible says about sinful behavior, as Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers did before the Wisconsin state legislature. Mr. White's outright condemnation of homosexuality (WORLD, March 28) generated a cryptic announcement by a CBS Sports spokeswoman about the network's "hard-and-fast corporate policy against bias of any kind." That policy must have escaped the notice of the news department-most of the reports that chronicled the flap showed bias of just one kind: that it's "controversial" to hold a biblical view of homosexuality and to express it publicly. But one sports columnist, Ron Borges of the liberal Boston Globe, although he disagreed with Mr. White's perspective, didn't take issue with his reading of the Bible: "The God of this book considers homosexuality a sin. That is not a comfortable thing to read if you're a homosexual, but it is what that book says. No one has to believe it, but it is what the book says."

Sick of scandal? Toss the standards

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Gary Hart, the 1988 presidential candidate who was forced from the race when reporters discovered him emerging from a woman's home at suggestive hours, now tells George magazine that how a man treats his wife and children is more important than whether he has sexual affairs. Mr. Hart tells the magazine: "I got linked to people whose behavior was, in my judgment, much worse than mine, people who were involved in sexual harassment, for instance." He also suggests in the interview that if we make marital fidelity a standard for leadership, we will have mediocre leaders. Several things ought to disturb us about Mr. Hart's reasoning. First, he seems to be saying that there is no benefit to the man who fulfills his wedding-day promises to his wife and walks with integrity before his children. In this view, fidelity and promiscuity are morally equivalent. This is much easier for the guilty to rationalize than the innocent. Perhaps the wives of wandering men should be asked whether it's all the same to them if their husbands sleep at home or with someone else. Second, Gary Hart seems content to see our standards continue to fall. We live in a time when some suggest that grading students hurts their developing psyches, and so it is better to have a "pass or fail" system so no one will feel bad. The idea of competition is being challenged as injurious to the young because some will lose sporting contests and experience diminished self-esteem. But learning at an early age to deal with winning and losing, as well as pursuing virtue and integrity, equips the young for the experiences they will face later on. Should we demand that only men and women who have never made personal or professional mistakes hold high office? Of course not. But we should not want leaders who pretend there is no standard. There is always room for those who err, confess their guilt, and vow not to repeat their mistakes. This upholds the standard while keeping the door open for redemption. There should be no room for those who claim by their lives and words that there are not, or ought not to be, any foundational principles. They cause harm to their families and their nation. -by Cal Thomas © 1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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