In recent years, Democratic candidates have focused on “issues” while Republican candidates focused on “values.” Through forces like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and The Christian Coalition, Republicans have used religion and guilt to coerce Christians into ignoring the issues (education, health care, the economy) and voting a straight Republican ticket. For 2008, they will have to try a new tactic.
The field of philandering, thrice-divorced candidates put forth by the Republican Party lead lives so far from anything that can be construed as “family values,” no honest preacher could tell church-goers to vote for them.
Who then is the family values candidate this go-round? Surprise, it’s Hillary Clinton. Clinton has honored her marriage vows through some pretty rough times, when most of us wouldn’t have faulted her for leaving. She demonstrates true commitment to her own family, and to the families of America, too.
Rudy Giuliani entered the American limelight as the heroic mayor amid the ashes of New York City. Never mind that Giuliani broke up with his second wife and the mother of his children at a news conference. Never mind that he moved out of Gracie Mansion to live with a couple of gay men during the divorce. Never mind that he married the woman he was already having an affair with while still married to Hanover. His children are so upset they have refused to help him campaign. Then there are the well-circulated YouTube videos of Giuliani in lipstick, heels and a dress, raising money for pro-homosexual organizations. He even sent money to Planned Parenthood. And this is the #1 choice of the Republican Party – the so-called “family values” party? While Giuliani has been running around in high heels smooching with Donald Trump, it is Hillary Clinton who has shown the world that a woman can be both strong and feminine at the same time.
John McCain, 2nd choice Republican candidate, has led an equally appalling personal life. McCain ditched his first wife, who raised their three children while he was in Vietnam, after she was crippled in a car accident. One month later he married 25-year-old Anheuser-Busch heiress Cindy Hensley. He used the family money to launch his political career. During the last election, James Dobson (often considered the evangelical “Pope”) issued a statement of non-support for McCain, citing his marital infidelities. McCain was deeply involved in the Savings & Loans scandals of the 1980’s, as one of the five Senators known as “the Keating Five” who received large political contributions from a firm accused of civil racketeering and fraud. McCain later admitted, “The appearance of it was wrong.” Contrast McCain to Hillary Clinton, who has never been disciplined for wrongdoing, and was named by Arkansas as the 1984 Mother of the Year.
"Let Our Family Represent Your Family." This was Newt Gingrich’s 1978 campaign slogan. He was reportedly cheating on his wife Jackie at the time. He divorced the woman who had put him through graduate school while she was still undergoing cancer treatments. According to his campaign treasurer, Gingrich divorced Jackie, who was 7 years his senior, because, “She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer." Gingrich did not pay child support, so the local church had to take up a collection to support the children.
Gingrich’s next wife, Marianne, stood by him through 84 ethics violations, including violation of federal tax laws. He was sanctioned for $300,000 for violating House Rules, breaking federal laws and lying to the ethics panel. In 1999, while spearheading impeachment efforts against Bill Clinton for lying about sex with a staffer, Gingrich was lying about an affair with one of his own staffers. At the time, he resigned and slunk into the shadows. He soon divorced Marianne and married Callista, the object of his affair. Reverend Jerry Falwell assures Conservative voters that Gingrich has “genuinely sought forgiveness.” Contrast Gingrich’s sleazy personal life with that of Hillary Clinton, who has never embarrassed her family or her nation.
Oddly, the press does not yet seem interested in the enormous moral failures of the Republican hopefuls. Instead, publications like the New York Times spend thousands of words evaluating whether the Clintons are emotionally close or mostly leading “separate lives.” Faced with Hillary Clinton’s professional and respectable lifestyle, detractors try to smear her with her husband’s failings, as if to impart guilt by association. The fact is, in spite of her husband’s failings, Hillary Clinton has always behaved as a true stateswoman.
Another tactic launched at women politicians is the subtle suggestion that any woman so smart and so strong must be a lesbian or a man in disguise. In 1998 John McCain made the following joke at a Republican fundraiser: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.” McCain apologized to Bill Clinton for making a tasteless joke at the expense of Clinton’s awkward teenage daughter. I do wonder whether he ever apologized to Chelsea, Hillary, or Janet Reno? I also wonder, will women vote for a man who expresses such contempt for smart, successful women?
Hillary Clinton inspires women everywhere with her example of integrating family life with big dreams. She held her own family together in spite of her husband’s embarrassing infidelities. She raised a daughter who is beautiful, smart and successful just like she is. For years she has fought to help other families by championing affordable health care, reasonable family leave policies and other pro-family legislation. It is Hillary Clinton who is the family values choice for 2010.
Come to think of it, Democratic favorites John Edwards and Barak Obama are also faithful to their original spouse and children. Awkwardly, the only top Republican candidate still with his first wife is Mitt Romney, the Mormon from Massachusetts. Until recently, Romney was as pro-choice as any Planned Parenthood donor and also favored domestic partnerships. McCain has also flip-flopped on those issues. Just a few years ago McCain was rated as one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress, and now he is rated as the 3rd most conservative. Giuliani has always been a strong supporter of state-funded abortion, and he marched in the Gay Day Parade just a few feet away from the NAMBLA banner exalting “man-boy love.” It looks like Republicans will have to stop appealing to Bible-belt voters with hypocritical “family values” rhetoric. We Christians are surely smarter than that.
-- Jeannie Babb Taylor