The hypocrisy of the morally anointed
by Vin Suprynowicz
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, one-time Democratic presidential hopeful and long-time political activist claiming to speak for black Americans, asked last week for the “forgiveness, understanding and prayers” of friends and supporters who may have been shocked to learn he has a 20-month-old daughter out of wedlock — born to one of his employees at the Washington-based activist organization Rainbow/PUSH — for whom he has been paying $3,000 a month in child support.
The Rev. Jackson revealed the relationship in a press release issued before dawn Thursday, one day before the National Enquirer was scheduled to break the story.
The first instinct must be concern for the Rev. Jackson’s wife and children. The Rev. Jackson said the revelation has created “an extremely painful, trying, and difficult time for them,” which sounds like an understatement.
The second emotion most American will feel — leaving aside the ignoble temptation for some political opponents and skeptics to gloat a bit at the discomfiture of a figure who has seemed at times to thrust himself into affairs across the nation and the globe, where the main goal sometimes appeared to be simply getting the Rev. Jackson on TV — is exasperation that such matters are now the subject of national gossip and excruciating dissection by television’s “talking heads,” at all.
Yes, the frequency with which such scandals embrace our churchmen might almost indicate there’s an inevitable pattern to such things — some higher power holding disgrace in store for those who show perhaps too little humility, advancing themselves as moral paragons and judges, refusing to acknowledge that even some who refuse to cleave to their particular social or political orthodoxy may yet be men and women of conscience and character.
But are we really as shocked as some of us pretend to be, to learn that able men in public life sometimes violate their marriage vows? No, such callous disregard of the corrosive effects on our families (and society as a whole) certainly doesn’t set a good example. But given that this happened, surely there’s some small encouragement to be found in the fact that the Rev. Jackson has acknowledged the child, and contributed to her upbringing.
Fact is, so long as they do support their children and remember to tuck in their shirttails, the reproductive habits of public men make little precious difference to the conduct of their offices or businesses, and personally I don’t care. It was never intended that we be ruled in this nation by a royalty or aristocracy with some noble obligation to “set a good example.” It’s time we recalled that we hire these folks to do a job of strictly limited description. At 5 o’clock, I would just as soon they go home. They leave me alone, avoid peeking in my windows, and I’ll happily return the favor.
But in the end, the Rev. Jackson is not even an elected official — he does not or at least should not be dispensing tax moneys. Once some brief period of titillation has passed, it’s to be hoped this affair will return to being what it really ought to be — a private matter.
All that said, and hopefully without any appearance of vindictiveness, all those who reviled libertarian-leaning Justice Clarence Thomas when he faced uncorroborated charges of doing nothing more than suggesting he might like to date a woman subordinate in his office — who argued then that there must be a “zero tolerance standard,” that as little as a sexually suggestive remark in the office constituted “sexual harassment” and should be enough to disqualify a man from future positions of public trust — must now watch with interest how the board of directors of the non-profit Rainbow/PUSH organization chooses to deal with the fact that the married Rev. Jackson didn’t merely ask one of his subordinates out on a date — he fathered an illegitimate child with her, and then had that outfit pay the woman in question $40,000 in relocation costs.
Is that “sexual harassment,” and an inappropriate use of his position, as well as the assets of the organization’s donors? Were there not other women in the organization equally qualified for advancement, whose careers did not progress as well as this woman’s, for reasons now obvious?
(Rarely remembered in the now endless assurances that President Clinton’s fling with Monica Lewinsky was “just a private matter” is the question of career track: Ms. Lewinsky ended up being escorted to top-level job interviews by chief presidential chauffeur and factotum Vernon Jordan, landing a sought-after classified post at the Pentagon. Caitlin Mahoney, who interned alongside Ms. Lewinsky but never showed off her thong, was shortly thereafter shot to death while pulling down a shift at her next job: jerking sodas in Georgetown.)
Or do such rules not apply here — do the press and public issue an automatic “Get Out of Jail Free” card … so long as the culprit is a left-leaning, pro-Big-Government, collectivist Democrat?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His book, “Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,” is available by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.
by Vin Suprynowicz
Copyright © 2001 Vin Suprynowicz. All rights reserved.